Namestnikov Eyes January Return

By Jeremy Houghtaling

For a second-straight season, Vladislav Namestnikov spent most of December watching from the stands.

After getting off to more than a point per game pace, the Syracuse Crunch center had his sophomore season interrupted when he required surgery on his left hand, which was broken from blocking a shot against Hamilton at the Bell Centre in Montreal Nov. 22. The 21-year-old is now counting the days until he can return to the lineup.

"I'm even hungrier now," Namestnikov said. "I just want to get back as soon as possible. I can't wait."

Namesntikov, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first round pick in 2011, registered 21 points in his first 16 games this season. As a rookie last year, he compiled 28 points in 62 games, despite missing more than a month with a shoulder injury.

"It's always hard to be injured and not be able to skate with your team," Namesntikov said.

Since undergoing surgery nearly a month ago, Namestnikov has continued to work out his legs. He began skating on his own last week, and joined his teammates in a red no-contact sweater during practice Monday.

Crunch coach Rob Zettler said Namestnikov would be re-evaluated at the end of December, and could return in January.

"I'm sure it's frustrating for him, especially seeing what he was doing this year -- third or fourth in the league in scoring, on a really good pace and playing well and doing all the right things -- and then he gets injured," Zettler said. "He gets injured trying to do the right thing; he blocked a shot. Unfortunately, that stuff happens sometimes."

Zettler doesn’t see Namestnikov’s string of bad luck as a sign of things to come.

"I don't see him as an injury-prone guy," Zettler said. "He's just a guy that got a couple bad breaks."

Although it’s another December full of rehabbing, Namestnikov is keeping his chin up.

"For sure it's frustrating, but you just have to stay positive and move forward," he said. "I'm almost back into game shape, so I'm just moving forward and forgetting about the injury."