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Max Pacioretty reacts to playing first game since injury: ‘It just felt weird’

Jul 14, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT

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There were plenty of debates revolving around Zdeno Chara‘s notorious hit on Max Pacioretty. On one side, there were angry fans who looked at that ugly moment as a predatory push rather than an unsettling accident. Conversely, others felt like Chara and Pacioretty were the victims of bad timing (not to mention questionable arena design).

That being said, aside from one embarrassing comment by Mark Recchi, the general consensus was of concern for Pacioretty’s health. Some wondered if the promising Montreal Canadiens forward would ever play again.

You never really know how far along a player truly is until he starts to play in legitimate NHL games, but Pacioretty seems like he’s making some amazing progress. Wednesday marked an impressive milestone for Pacioretty, who suited up for the Big Assist charity game. Pacioretty discussed what it felt like to participate in what he told NHL.com was “the most competitive outing he’s had since the injury.”

“It felt … I don’t know, I guess it just felt weird,” Pacioretty said following the game. “It was weird at first, but as the game went on I think I felt a little more comfortable, and I’m looking forward now to gaining some momentum off of that.”

Pacioretty reportedly skated on a line with Martin St. Louis and Matt Moulson, picking up a goal and two assists. As great as that must have felt, the best moments probably came when fans showed their support for the recovering winger.

At the rink Wednesday, Pacioretty was a fan favorite. The fans erupted when his name was called in pregame introductions, and dozens of kids waited behind his team’s bench after each period to get his autograph.

“It’s good to see so many people care about hockey in the area, and my experience in particular,’ said Pacioretty, who grew up in nearby New Canaan, Conn. “It’s the one positive I can get out of my experience, that a lot of people have shown me great support and have stuck with me through the situation.”

The report indicates that Pacioretty thinks that he’s back to his pre-injury form, if not stronger. He’s had an unusual amount of time to train and he hopes to ride that momentum into next season. Pacioretty also said that he’s ready to put that hit behind him.

“The past is the past, and I can dwell on it as much as I want, but that will do me no good,” he said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to work toward the future and get ready for next year.”

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