Adam Payerl didn’t like seeing the game from the stands.
For two-and-a-half months, that’s where Payerl watched his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin teammates while he was out with an injury. From Nov. 30 until he returned on Feb. 14, Payerl could only sit and watch.
“It felt like forever,” he said.
But rather than mope about the situation, Payerl tried to find a positive. Because all he could do was watch, he figured he might as well learn something at the same time.
“It’s frustrating being in the stands, but I tried to use the situation as a learning experience because the game looks so different from that perspective,” Payerl said. “One thing I noticed is you have more time than you think. You still have to make quick decisions, but sometimes you have that extra half-second to make that play.”
Aside from watching, Payerl underwent a vigorous rehab process to make sure when he did finally return, there would be no rust and conditioning wouldn’t be an issue.
When Payerl returned on Feb. 14 for a road game in Binghamton, he said the conditioning was fine, but he still felt a little “off.”
“There was a bit of an adjustment of getting used to playing the body in the corners and doing those things again. But after that first game I felt better,” Payerl said.
Penguins coach John Hynes didn’t hesitate to use Payerl in a variety of situation upon his return to the lineup, playing him on several lines and giving the big center time on the power play and penalty kill.
“He really looks like he picked up where he left off,” Hynes said. “You can play him on any line because he plays the same way regardless of who he’s playing with. His niche is a power forward game, and when he’s physical, he has an impact. Adam can leave a mark on a guy that he hits.”
• The Penguins held an optional practice on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. With no game tonight, they are expected to practice in full during the day before hosting the Providence Bruins on Saturday in what will be an eventful night. The team will hold its annual Military Appreciation Night and offer autographed camo pucks for $10.
The players will also be wearing red, white and blue jerseys to pay homage to the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game.
The highlight of the night will be the inductions of Kevin Blaum, Alain Nasreddine and Dennis Bonvie into the Penguins Hall of Fame. A pregame ceremony will honor the first class of inductees.
• Speaking of the Olympics, the performance of the U.S. team has impressed Hynes, who used to coach in the U.S. Hockey development program. The U.S. team will face Canada in the semifinals today, and while the team’s performance has been stellar so far, Hynes said there still remains one goal.
“Ultimately, for the U.S., you want to come home with a medal,” he said. “The U.S. team has played a very exciting style this year and that will increase the interest in hockey here. Now, the next step is to win a medal for the country.”