When the Walleye were mired in a month-long slump, forward David Gilbert was powerless to do anything about it and the Canadian center detested the helpless feeling of simply being a bystander.
Gilbert was on the injured reserve list with a hip pointer for much of Toledo's dreadful slump that included six straight losses and 10 setbacks in 11 games.
“It was so hard,” Gilbert said. “I was a fan for a month and being up there watching games, you want to be out there with the boys and help them get the win. I'm so happy to be back around the boys and be part of the team.”
ON THE HOOK: Q&A with David Gilbert
Gilbert, a 22-year-old from a suburb of hockey-crazy Montreal, said he can't remember the last time he could not play hockey for that length of time.
“I've never been away from the game for that long. It was hard on me mentally,” he said.
Gilbert returned to the lineup last Wednesday and scored a goal in the Walleye's 3-2 loss to Cincinnati. He scored the game-winning goal and had two assists in Toledo's 5-2 win over Evansville Saturday. It was Toledo's second win in a row.
“We are positive right now,” Gilbert said. “We won two games in row for the first time this season. It's good for us mentally to win two games. Now we want to win three in a row.”
Gilbert (pronounced Jzill-bear) and his Toledo teammates take on Evansville for the fifth time in the last six games at 8:15 p.m. today in Evansville. The Walleye (7-11-3) are 3-2-1 against the IceMen (12-7-3) this year.
“We need to keep this streak alive. It would make the holidays better,” Gilbert said in phone interview from the team hotel in Indiana on Tuesday. “It would be good for us because we've been struggling the last month. We want to make the playoffs so every game is important.”
Gilbert scored the game winner Saturday with 7:26 left. He was able to display his offensive creativity to get Evansville goalie Garrett Bartus out of position with patience and good stick work.
“It felt good coming back from an injury,” Gilbert said. “I don't like to talk to about personal performance, but I felt good out there. I'm 100 percent. All the team played really good.”
This is the second stint in a Walleye uniform for Gilbert, who was drafted by Chicago in the seventh round of the 2009 draft.
Gilbert played in 29 games for the Walleye in 2011-12, posting 18 points (6 goals and 12 assists). He finished 10th on the team in scoring despite playing in less than 30 games.
“I really like Toledo,” Gilbert said. “The rink and the fans are great. We want to win for those fans. It's huge what they do for us. I love to meet the fans after the games. I didn't come back to Toledo with my head down. I was really positive.”
Gilbert started the season in Rockford's camp of the American Hockey League before he suffered the hip injury. He played in seven games for Toledo before re-aggravating the injury on Nov. 9 against Florida. Gilbert sat restless on the sidelines for the next 10 games and watched the Walleye lose nine of those contest and fall to last place in the ECHL North Division.
“When I got hit again they wanted to make sure when I came back the next time, that I'd be 100 percent,” Gilbert said. “It was a long wait.”
Coach Nick Vitucci paired Gilbert up with wingers Scott Arnold and Marek Tvrdon on Saturday.
“That line played great and they stepped up,” Vitucci said. “That is what we are looking for.”
The trio combined for six points as Tvrdon scored two goals in the much-needed victory.
“It worked out really well,” Gilbert said. “They are two great players.”
The 10-goal outburst in two games came at a crucial time for the Walleye, who at one point had a scoreless streak that lasted 200 minutes, 57 seconds, a span of three-plus games. Since, Toledo has scored 20 goals over the last five games.
“We know we have offense in this locker room,” Vitucci said. “We have guys that can put the puck in the net when they're playing the right way. With these two wins we should have great momentum.”
Gilbert said the losing streak is just part of the ups and downs of a long season.
“You just try not to get too high or too low,” he said.