Concussed Connolly's comeback

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

Tim Connolly may not like to talk about it but his success this season is a great comeback story.

The skilled but previously inconsistent centre went into training camp with his job in jeopardy after missing all of the 2003-04 NHL campaign because of post-concussion syndrome stemming from a pre-season injury.

The lockout year pushed back his potential return and kept him out of the world's elite league for two seasons.

Now, not only is Connolly back in action, he's leading the Buffalo Sabres -- one of the surprise teams of the first half -- in scoring. To Connolly, discussion of the difficult times are off limits.

"It was tough but it's so far behind me I don't even think about it right now. It's a tough situation. I don't even talk about it anymore," the 6-ft. 1-in., 186-lb. playmaker said of the disabling head injury. "It's fun to be back doing something you love and just being around the guys.

"When that happens, you're kind of on your own, on your own program. Now I'm back with the guys and it's been a lot of fun thus far. Hopefully we can continue the way we've been playing."

Connolly, who used a lockout stint in Switzerland as a stepping stone to return to the NHL, was reluctant to get into recovery details but Calgary Flames centre Matthew Lombardi knows what it's like to sit around and wait for the symptoms to pass.

Lombardi missed nearly a year of action after a vicious elbow from Derian Hatcher took him out of the 2004 playoffs.

"He went through a long process," said an empathetic Lombardi of Connolly's plight.

"I think during, it's tougher. You start hitting like three, four months and then you never know how long it's going to take. Mentally, it's pretty draining.

"It was pretty weird just not being able to play and do what you do on a daily basis. Just stupid things you take for granted. Doing anything that involves exercise or anything like that. Once you're cleared to do all that stuff, you don't take it for granted as much as you did before."

Connolly is certainly making the most of his new opportunity under the new league guidelines. He has nine goals and 38 points in 47 games, sharing the team lead with former Flame Chris Drury and well on his way to shattering his personal bests. He has shed his image as a player who lacks intensity.

Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener said his former teammate never lacked skill.

"Well, he's always been talented," said Warrener. "I think he's finally just decided to go out and use that talent to play.

"I think this new style of game complements his skill level. It's nice to see him being able to put some numbers up."


Videos

Photos

Canoe Top Headlines