Forward returned from two knee operations, separated shoulder not picking up
where he left off; has been a healthy scratch three straight games, four of six
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The year was so full of promise and anticipation for Robby Fabbri that even he couldn't wait to finally wait to lace up the boots again.
Who could blame him after missing a year and a half due to a pair of serious surgery-required knee operations to repair a torn left ACL?
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Robby Fabbri (left) scores against Nashville earlier this season. It's been a
tough challenge for Fabbri to return to pre-injury form this season.
That anticipation was so long overdue after missing an entire season in 2017-18 after tearing the initial ACL a second time during the preseason, knowing he would have to go through surgery and extensive rehab again.
But this season, things haven't gone quite as expected from Fabbri.
He was finally able to overcome those knee injuries and get in a proper training camp and getting into games, 14 of them to be exact and average nearly 15 minutes per game, only to be shelved again, and this time, it was a separated shoulder on Dec. 1 against Arizona that forced him to miss another 11 games.
And since then, it's been a rocky road for Fabbri, who has been a healthy scratch the past three games and four of the past six games. He's played in eight games and averaged under 11 minutes per game.
It's not easy to sit, especially for Fabbri, who was the Blues' first-round pick in 2014. This isn't something he's used to or ever was used to going back to his junior level days. But there's been an influx of players that have gotten in the lineup or called in to play, such as Zach Sanford, Sammy Blais, Mackenzie MacEachern, the rise of Robert Thomas and the emergence of Oskar Sundqvist that have put Fabbri in the unenviable position to fight for ice time.
"I've not really sat like this in my career, my short career and junior," Fabbri said after practice Friday. "It's definitely different, but I've had a positive mindset through everything. That's the way I've gone through the knees and everything else. Being around the guys is always fun, and as much as you want to be in the lineup, you keep yourself ready off the ice for when you get the call."
It's been a tough find for Fabbri this season. It's been tough to find what his niche on this Blues team is, where to fit him and what situation he plays in. He has just five points (two goals, three assists) in 23 games this season, a far cry of what was expected when he returned.
But this is the reality of it all. It's not as easy as one may have thought to come back from such serious injuries, not even for a 23-year-old.
"Finding my game before the shoulder and then being off again was kind of tough mentally just to know you go through that again, but I think I'm back up where I want to be with comfort in my speed and my abilities on the ice," Fabbri said. "I know it takes time when you come back from an injury, but I think I'm ready. I think I'm there."
Fabbri, who has 71 points (31 goals, 40 assists) in three NHL seasons, has used the past two days of practice following the All-Star break and mandatory week-long break to get back on track.
"I've been feeling good," Fabbri said. "I've had some time here to be in the gym and working on the ice with not being in the lineup the last few games before the break there. I feel confident out there. These last two practices have went well. It's just for me now to be ready for when I get put in."
Fabbri is an example of tough lineup decisions at forward, and if one isn't playing up to the level they're capable of playing, being a healthy scratch is not out of the realm of possibility, as Fabbri can attest to.
So Fabbri, who was such a force playing with Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer during the run to the Western Conference Final in 2016, is looking to get back to the form he had then, if possible.
"Using my speed, flying around the ice, causing havoc on the forecheck and creating turnovers and creating offense off those forechecks, being sound defensively, really using my skill and speed to create some offense, some rush opportunities and stuff for this team," Fabbri said. "... I'm just trying to get back to where I was when I first came into the league and where I was successful and those games before my shoulder where I was playing good hockey. I think the confidence will come maybe as I get into some games.
"Definitely when you come back after a year and a half, you feel like you're working hard, but you might not be working hard in the right way. Finding it before the shoulder and then losing it again and then finding it again, it's definitely coming back quicker than it did at the beginning of the year. I feel confident right now and I feel like everything's there."
Now it's just a matter of time before Fabbri gets back in, whether that's Saturday at Columbus or not.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Robby Fabbri (15) scores a goal against Carolina earlier this season. Fabbri
has just five points in 23 games this season and has been a healthy scratch
in three straight games, four of the past six.
"It's a huge challenge. It's not easy and nobody knows what he's going through except him," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said of Fabbri. "He's the only guy that knows. He had great success here as a player and then you get injured and you miss a couple years or however long it's been and then you come back and you have a shoulder injury and you're out again. It's not easy, but for me, he's battling through it here. His attitude's been good and I liked his two practices that he's had after the break here.
"If you're watching today, he's just on the puck, he has the puck, he keeps it, he's a tenacious player and he can score. He's got the ability to score in tight places around the net and stuff, and when he's on his game, he's quick, gets on people and gets the puck. He's just a tenacious player. ... He's looked really good the last two days in practice. It looks to me like he's got some jump again in his step out there. I thought he had two real good practices. He's going to get back in there."