Juuso Riikola’s face said it better than his words did. Asked about seeing the injury to fellow Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz during a game Saturday at Montreal, Riikola made the sort of expression you might expect from someone smelling a strong lemon and, say, spoiled fish at the same time.
“That was a bad thing. Ew. The leg was so bad,” he said Monday after the team practiced at PPG Paints Arena.
Hockey players are known for their toughness when it comes to pain and injuries, but it’s a little different when it comes to seeing a gruesome-looking injury to another player, particularly a teammate.
Schultz, one of the Penguins’ better two-way defensemen, underwent surgery Monday to repair a broken lower left leg. Team doctor Dharmesh Vyas and physician Alex Kline performed the surgery. Schultz is expected to miss four months.
“I saw it on the replay up on the (video) board,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “It’s tough to watch, obviously pretty cringe-worthy. You kind of see his leg kind of snap like that. It’s obviously tough to watch, especially when it’s one of your buddies. You just wish him the best.
“That’s a tough injury, and one of the worst that I’ve seen for the ankle.”
Defenseman Kris Letang was just as affected by the injury, when Schultz apparently got his skate caught in the ice, bending his leg in a way it should not.
“It’s a tough one to watch,” Letang said. “The video, when you watch it live, it’s a horrific picture.”
So they didn’t spend a lot of time watching replays of it.
“You watch it one time and I think that’s enough — especially a guy like ‘Schultzie,’ such a good guy and such a big part of the team,” defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said.
An educated guess would be that Schultz had metal – pins, rods, plates, screws, etc. – surgically implanted around the area of the break.
It wasn’t just the team’s other defensemen who had a difficult time watching the injury.
“It was an awful thing to watch. It’s tough to watch,” center and captain Sidney Crosby said.
Dumoulin has spoken with Schultz since the injury.
“Obviously, it’s tough,” Dumoulin said. “He wants to be in the (locker) room. He wants to be with us. I think that’s the hardest part when you’re out injured.
“He’s the kind of guy that everybody loves. We’ll keep him close to us and try to keep him involved as best we can.”