February 01, 2012 1:13 PM
For a player that doesn’t get injured very often, Jerome Samson’s recent ailment couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Three games into his long-awaited first recall to the Carolina Hurricanes this season, one that featured his first NHL goal and had otherwise gone well up until that point, the Checkers’ leading goal scorer suffered a separated shoulder that would put that momentum to a halt. Just when it seemed as though the 24-year-old may have finally made the breakthrough he was waiting for, two weeks on the sidelines came instead, ending with his return to the AHL on Tuesday.
“The last major injury I had was a sprained ankle (during the 2008-09 season), and I hadn’t missed a game since other than when I was scratched in Carolina last year,” he recalled.
Samson, who now had 33 NHL games to his credit over the last three seasons, said the incident occurred with about five minutes left in the Hurricanes’ Jan. 14 game against Boston, when he took a painful hit from 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara in the corner and another from a different player as he went to the net later in the same shift.
“It really sucks, because as soon as I left the ice I knew it wasn’t going to be an overnight type of injury,” he said.
Even with the red-hot Chris Terry passing him on the scoring chart, the trade of Jon Matsumoto has Samson returning to the Checkers just as he left them - as the team’s second-highest scorer with 27 points (15g, 12a) in 37 games. He still leads the club in power-play goals (8) and shots on goal (160), both of which remain in striking distance of the AHL lead despite his recent absence.
Though he’s fully cleared to play and will join a Charlotte power play that was already on the best run in team history (36.8 percent since Jan. 12), Samson may need a game or two to get up to speed from the injury.
“I stayed in Raleigh longer over the All-Star break to work with their trainers and have the best chance possible of playing (for the Checkers) this weekend,” he said. “With the pace of play up there I might not have been ready to play yet, but they wanted me to come down here and give it a try.”
Time will tell whether Samson’s return will last until another space opens, whenever that might be, or if it’s just a conditioning stint until he gets to the point where he’s ready to resume play at the NHL level. Though he’s treating the situation as though he needs to prove himself all over again, based on feedback he received from Carolina’s coaches throughout his tenure and at the time of his reassignment to Charlotte, he may not have to wait as long for his next opportunity.
“Kirk (Muller) put me in a position to play with some really skilled players, and I felt very comfortable because I could almost play the same role I do here and didn’t have to think too much,” he said. “I was playing the game I know I can play.”
If nothing else, Samson has the memory of his first NHL goal, a power-play strike in his season debut against Philadelphia on Jan. 10, to look back on. He described it as “a long time coming” due to the amount of chances he had during his 23-game stay with the Hurricanes last season, but couldn’t help but glow when recounting all the details, right through the part where he fell over during his celebration.
He immediately set aside the stick he used to score that goal for safekeeping. Teammate Jussi Jokinen was sure to grab the puck, which the Hurricanes will now arrange into a framed display that he should receive sometime during the summer at his home in Quebec.
“I’ll hang it up in my house, look at it and be proud,” he said.