Jimmy Lambert blocked two shots with his left foot on Feb. 22 against Notre Dame — once in the first period and once in the second. After the second block, he bent over in pain and at the next stoppage of play, he headed for the locker room.
When he came down to the ice for the Senior Day celebration after the game, he was wearing a boot on his left foot. And when asked about the sophomore forward’s status, Michigan coach Mel Pearson wasn’t optimistic.
“He’s probably out for the year,” Pearson said. “We’ll look at — I think he got X-rays. I think it’s broken, so I don’t expect him back the rest of the year. I was just talking a couple weeks ago about how we’re healthy and feeling good, then he goes down.”
The following morning, Lambert’s mom, Reina, told The Daily her son called to tell her he’d broken his foot. Lambert’s parents had been planning to drive the 14 hours from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Minneapolis for the Wolverines’ regular season finale — and now would not be making the trip.
“He says to me, ‘I’m so sorry, Mom,’ ” Reina said. “He’s hurt, he’s got this broken foot and he’s apologizing. I said, ‘It’s okay. That’s hockey. You were supposed to block the shot so it’s all good.’ ”
But Wednesday afternoon at Yost Ice Arena, Lambert took the ice about 40 minutes before practice started — dressed in the same jersey as his teammates, which meant he was not under any contact restrictions. He went through drills with a handful of other players — largely the skaters who didn’t participate in last weekend’s series in Minnesota — and then completed the hour-long practice with the entirety of the team.
Lambert wasn’t skating on his regular line with freshman forward Nick Granowicz and senior forward Jake Slaker, but he did take reps on the first power play unit and appeared to be fully healthy.
After practice, Pearson explained the situation.
“Jimmy’s skated all week,” Pearson said. “He’s got the green light to play. He’s looked good. It was one of those things, just in a spot that is not — like a stress fracture, you might get (one there). We thought there was initially — I thought it was initially. I spoke too soon, but it wasn’t a stress fracture. He’s good. He looks good, too, on the ice. He’s anxious to play.”
So, 11 days after his season was declared over — and a week after Pearson said it was “tough” that Lambert would miss the rest of the year — Lambert is back on the ice and seemingly will play in this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal series against Michigan State.
With getting Lambert back, Michigan returns a player who struggled earlier in the year but had started to find his stride and produce in recent weeks. Prior to a groin injury against Wisconsin on Feb. 8, Lambert had nine points in six games, including scoring his first goal since Oct. 19.
He was held without a point against the Fighting Irish after missing both games against Michigan State, and is now set to return this weekend after missing the series at Minnesota.
Additional reporting by Molly Shea