News / Vancouver

Dan Hamhuis eyes a return to Canucks lineup after All-Star break

The veteran defenceman, and pending unrestricted free agent, had surgery to repair facial fractures after taking a slap shot to the face in December

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis wears a full face mask as he skates with his teammates Monday at Rogers Arena. Hamhuis suffered multiple facial fractures after he was hit in the face with a slap shot on Dec. 9, 2015.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis wears a full face mask as he skates with his teammates Monday at Rogers Arena. Hamhuis suffered multiple facial fractures after he was hit in the face with a slap shot on Dec. 9, 2015.

Less than two full months since he left Rogers Arena in an ambulance after being hit in the face with a slap shot that resulted in multiple facial injuries requiring surgery, Dan Hamhuis is hoping to return to the Canucks lineup for the first game back following the All-Star break.

Wearing a full face mask, the veteran 33-year-old Canucks defenceman took part in Monday’s practice prior to the team’s final game – Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators – before the All-Star weekend.

Hamhuis said he’ll work out on his own during the time off and whether he plays Feb. 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets will depend on how he fares in practice in the days after the break.

Based on the account he provided to reporters, the damage to his face was extensive. Some of it is permanent, too.

“The first seven to 10 days were really tough. It took a couple of days after the incident to figure out how we were going to surgically repair it,” said Hamhuis.

“There were so many breaks throughout the facial bones, there wasn’t a quick fix to it. It was figuring out how to anchor things to each other for support and (doctors) did a fantastic job with all the surgery and it’s healed back pretty well back the way it was, aside from the teeth.

“It’s kind of hard to describe. I mean, multiple fractures. Places were shattered, so I don’t know if you count those as breaks. But you could count 15 to 20 breaks right through the face, through the maxilla bone and up into the cheek. There was a lot going on there and it just … tells the amazing story of how the doctors were able to put that together and it’s healed up very well.”

Hamhuis said he has two permanent plates in his cheeks, and he still has “numb spots” through his mouth, gums and nose. His teeth, he said, will need work done in the off-season.

He said his jaw was wired shut for three-and-a-half weeks, before the wires were cut and the lower bar used to support the wires came out on Jan. 4. He was cleared to slowly begin slowly eating solid food again.

“That first day, I was pretty tentative. It was more like a scramble eggs, mash potatoes, cottage cheese type of diet,” he said.

Hamhuis said he has since been able to enjoy a steak, however the holidays proved difficult as everyone else was able to indulge in the usual fare and he wasn’t.

He couldn't even use a straw to ingest his meals. At first, he was getting nourishment through a syringe, before liquefying his food more and drinking it through a coffee mug, he said.

“I got well taken care of by my wife and a lot of people in the community making soups,” he said, adding he lost about 10 pounds.

“So that was nice, especially through the Christmas break. It was tough to see everybody else eating all the (appetizers) and turkey and I was sitting there drinking smoothies.”

Head coach Willie Desjardins admitted he was surprised at how soon it appears Hamhuis will return to the lineup.

The timing of Hamhuis’ possible return is also of interest. For starters, the Canucks defence isn’t very strong beyond the top pairing of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, and rookie Ben Hutton, who has been impressive since he earned a spot out of training camp.

If Hamhuis does come back on Feb. 4, it will also be 25 days between his return and the trade deadline.

The Canucks are still playoff contenders in a weak Pacific Division, but they’ll likely have a few decisions to make with veteran players on expiring contracts as the deadline looms closer and depending on where they sit in the standings leading up to that day.

Hamhuis is a pending unrestricted free agent in the final year of his contract, which carries a cap hit of $4.5 million a season, according to the website GeneralFanager.com.

“We do enjoy it here in Vancouver. It’s been a great place to play and so we’ll see where we take that and what they want to do on their side,” said Hamhuis.

There was a period of seven to 10 days after the injury when Hamhuis admits he wasn’t even thinking about hockey, saying he dealt with the claustrophobia of his jaw being wired shut.

“Hockey wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. It was just getting through it,” he said.

“It was certainly hard on my family as well to go through that. As time went on, though, things heal, things get better, things get easier, the wires come off and you start looking forward to hockey.”

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