GLENS FALLS — Devin Setoguchi is getting bored of shooting on an empty net. He’s been a player without a team for more than two months now as he recovers from a sports hernia and he’s tired of it.
Setoguchi and Bill Arnold are on similar schedules as they work their way back from both of their first long-term injuries. In his eight-year career, Setoguchi has had six previous surgeries, but all of them were in the offseason. Arnold only missed two games in his four years at Boston College, and that was for the world juniors tournament. He was on a similar track as the only Flame to play all of the first 39 games, but then a shoulder injury took him out.
Now, Arnold and Setoguchi spend most of their time in the weight room together and skating long bag skates to get their conditioning up again. Both have practiced with the team some, Setoguchi more than Arnold, but only in non-contact yellow sweaters and often not for the whole session.
Setoguchi sometimes has to take a break and sit down for a few minutes. During Wednesday’s skate, strength coach Mike Thompson repeatedly asked how Setoguchi’s back was doing, saying he didn’t want it to seize up.
The skates are informal, which is nice, and the players both suggest drills to try, but does that mean Setoguchi likes it?
“Uhh … no,” he said. “You just constantly are skating and constantly trying to get back into shape. You’d rather be around the guys, in more intense drills and shooting on a goalie.”
But, he and Arnold both know it’s necessary. They need to get back to game shape. If everything goes as planned, they’ll be practicing with the team next week and playing not too long after that.
It helps to at least mix up all the skating. Setoguchi suggested a different drill on Wednesday, trying just to add in something a little different. Thompson liked the new drill and said he’s going to add it in.
“When you do the same things over and over and over again, mentally it’s tough to stay engaged,” Setoguchi said. “I’ve done this long enough now — almost 500 NHL games — where I’ve been around some bag skates. It’s just nice to throw in some rotations of skate hard, stop, but still get a nice shot.”
The shooting is key for Setoguchi. Skating may be the base of hockey, but it’s not the fun part. Adding in skill elements is when it gets fun and for most players that means shooting. Setoguchi added a few rockets to his drills on Wednesday but still focused on the conditioning.
Arnold feels similarly but is more willing to try other forms of skating, as well. Thompson described an aerobic skating exercise — 10 minutes of hard skating down the middle, gliding to the wall and easy skate back along the boards. Setoguchi didn’t seem interested but Arnold said he’d give it a try. Soon, Setoguchi joined in and the three were skating lopsided circles.
It’s not just the boring practices. It takes some effort to feel like part of the team. It’s not hard, but it is effort.
“You feel a little bit on the outside,” Setoguchi said. “I try to be around the room as much as I can — except during the game — other than that, I’m one of the first guys here and we’re almost one of the last guys to leave. You get to see them and they keep you sane.”
When the team’s away it can be a little bit harder. It feels like only the three of them in the whole arena and no roommates to keep them company. Setoguchi said some of the players’ girlfriends live in the building and sometimes he takes his dog over to watch games, but that’s the best he can do.
Arnold tunes in on AHL Live, but said it’s hard to watch games because he’s not out there. He hates not being able to help.