Andrej Meszaros played in just 11 of the Flyers' 48 games last season. (USA Today Images)
It would be hard to fault Andrej Meszaros for thinking there is an ominous black cloud hovering over his head every time he steps on the ice.
More than once last season -- and even the year before -- the Slovak defenseman seemed apprehensive about how fragile he had become with one injury after another for a guy who Vinny Lecavalier said always had bone-rattling hits when he played in Tampa Bay.
Yet Meszaros, who will report to Flyers training camp next week, seems to be in a better frame of mind.
The wrist surgery from a couple of summers ago is behind him. So is the herniated disk surgery in the spring of 2012. So is the Achilles tendon surgery he had last summer, following a freak workout accident.
Even all the left shoulder troubles and subsequent rotator cuff surgery from last spring’s lockout-shortened season is behind him.
Meszaros says he feels “good.” As far as he’s concerned, this is a fresh start. He won’t dwell on the past or even contemplate how some think he is basically damaged goods at a young age (he turns 28 in mid-October).
“I never doubted it even once,” Meszaros said this week, practicing with teammates as they await to start of full camp on Sept. 12. “I knew I would bounce back. The doctors did a good job on my shoulder and all the injuries. It was just a matter of time. [Trainers] Jimmy [McCrossin] and Sal [Raffa] did a great job, and I was fortunate to have them here. They really helped me. Now I just focus on on-ice stuff and hockey.”
Meszaros played just 11 of 48 games during the lockout season. He played just 62 of 82 games the previous season.
That’s why there was constant speculation that the Flyers might move him this summer. Or that his career had been jeopardized by so many injuries in a short span of time.
“Yeah, I missed a lot of time but I feel confident,” Meszaros said. “I know I can play this game. I’m not gonna think about that I didn’t play for a long time. I won’t think about ‘if I get hurt again.’ I am just going to start and go out, see what happens.”
His attitude sounds different.
Although the club says his shoulder rehab went well, Meszaros has not been medically cleared. His physical comes next week.
He’s lost some “fat,” he says, and is reporting to camp at 215 pound of muscle.
Early observations? Well, Meszaros has been skating, shooting and hitting during drills and everything appears fine. And he’s smiling again, too.
While the Flyers, as a team, had four months off, he had five because of the early surgery.
“Most of it was rehabbing my shoulder and try to get my back ready too and my Achilles,” he said. “I still felt that. But now I’m good to go and we got physicals. Hopefully, the doctors will clear me. I feel confident. You never know what the doctor says and all kinds of tests we have to do. I feel good.”
As the most injured (Chris Pronger never played) of last year’s decimated group of defensemen, Meszaros technically ranks on the lowest end of the chart among the overall D-men. He goes into camp as No. 6 or No. 7 given the acquisition of Mark Streit.
Doesn’t matter, Meszaros said. He intends to compete as if the past never happened.
“I feel good, and it’s good to be back on the ice with the boys, practice and scrimmage. Obviously, it’s not for real. But you get an idea where you are at.”
Meszaros began full on-ice workouts and shoulder work -– shooting pucks -- in early August.
“Once you start skating and shooting the puck, it felt pretty good,” Meszaros said. “You kind of start playing. I’ll see the doctor at physicals and what he says.
“I started going on the ice the first or second week of August back home," he said. "Every day was better and better.”
Only real games and real hits will give us an answer. Lecavalier made a prediction.
“He’s skating very well on the ice, he’s very solid and has a great shot,” Lecavalier said. “He hits very hard. A big boy who can move very well. He’s going to be a huge part of the [defense].”