The current struggles of the Manchester Monarchs could be blamed on a handful of things, one of which is injuries.
One guy who is going against that trend has been Justin Azevedo.
After suffering a lower body injury on Nov. 18 and missing 30 games, Azevedo has recorded five points in his five games since returning to the lineup. For a team that’s been searching for offensive production in recent weeks – Manchester had scored just one goal in each of the two games before last Saturday’s four-goal effort in a loss to Bridgeport – those points have been huge.
With each game, Azevedo has felt himself grow more and more comfortable with being on the ice. In fact, his adjustment happened so fast it’s surprised the forward.
“I’m actually surprised how well I felt,” he said on Tuesday before practice. “The first game, even the first shift … well, maybe not for the first 25 seconds, but as the game went on, I just felt better and better, and as the games went on, I felt better and better.”
Although he had missed time because of injuries a season ago, Azevedo had to mentally prepare himself for the stretch he was out this season.
“Ask anybody how tough it is to watch, it’s not fun at all,” Azevedo said. “When you’re in that kind of situation, sometimes you start feeling like you’re not part of the team.
“You’re not a part of anything. You’re not in the locker room. Before practice, I’d go in, but before games and after games, you’re not on the bench. You’re not a part of a lot of things. That’s tough.”
Azevedo stayed positive, despite not being able to do anything on the ice, or much off it. Because his injury involved a leg, he couldn’t do much more than an upper-body work and spend time in the pool.
“I was in an air cast, so I couldn’t skate, I couldn’t ride the bike, I couldn’t do any legs,” he said. “The only thing I could really do was kind of go to the pool, but I couldn’t even really kick. I had to sleep with it for the longest time, too, because they didn’t want my foot to be going the wrong way.”
Now that he’s back, Azevedo can focus on helping the Monarchs get out of the current funk they’ve been in. After losing three straight games, Manchester has fallen out of first place in the Atlantic Division for the first time since October.
“I think it starts in practice,” he said. “We need everybody taking responsibility. We just had a few breakdowns. Hopefully we can turn it around.”
The Monarchs will attempt to stop their skid on Friday at Springfield, the final game of a seven-game road trip.