All hockey players dread the “lower body injury,” but for a speedy skater such as Walleye forward Travis Novak it can be particularly bothersome.
Novak, 25, never had to battle through any major health issues other than the normal bumps and bruises during his junior, college, and pro career.
Novak, who is in his second season with the Walleye, has missed 10 of Toledo's 33 games. He was sidelined early in the season with a sprained knee. Most recently he has been hampered by a groin injury. He missed seven games before returning last Friday.
“The is the first time I've ever missed extended time,” Novak said. “It's been a bit of an adjustment after taking that time off. Skating is a big part of my game, so it's been tough to work back.”
When he is in the lineup, Novak has averaged almost one point per game. The winger has scored eight goals and dished out 14 assists for 22 points in 23 games with the Walleye. Last year in his first full pro season, Novak tallied 34 points in 65 games. He was the team's fifth leading scorer with 11 goals and 23 assists. He also scored two goals and had an assist in Toledo's six playoff games.
Novak scored a goal and had two assists in the Walleye's 7-0 crushing of Wheeling on Sunday at the Huntington Center.
Despite missing 10 games, Novak still ranks second on the team in scoring. He said his biggest asset is his speed.
“I can bring energy with my skating and I can create turnovers on the back check and that can create scoring [opportunities],” Novak said.
Injuries prevented him from skating and he did most of his conditioning riding a stationary bike.
“In hockey it's always something with minor aches and pains, but it's something you play through,” Novak said. “It's tough when it's been a few weeks to get back into game shape. I just try to stay positive and go to the rink with the same attitude. It takes more than a period or two. It takes a few games. I feel good now.”
The Walleye missed Novak's scoring touch. With him back, Toledo (12-18-3) has won two games in a row. The Walleye have moved out of the basement in the ECHL Eastern Conference but remain last in the North Division. They are 11 points out of a playoff spot with the season's midpoint just three games away.
“I think we have a team, as long as we keep working hard, that can go on a long run here,” Novak said. “I think we showed that a bit this weekend. We have the goaltending that can take us on a run. We have good defense and forwards that can contribute as well. We have a lot of games left in the season and we're not too far back.”
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci has called Novak one of the fastest skaters in the ECHL.
“Travis has a terrific motor,” Vitucci said “His skating alone changes how teams play against us. He brings a scoring punch.”
Novak, a 5-foot-11 and 185 pounder from Lethbridge, Alberta, said he wants to be the the type of player who can be trusted in key situations.
“Offense starts with defense,” he said. “You don't ever want to give up a goal when you're on the ice. First you need to get the puck out of your own end and that creates good offensive chances.”
Novak's mother Tina is a Toledo native and he was born in Midland, Mich. before he moved to Canada.
“I have a lot of family that come to a lot of the home games,” Novak said. “It's nice to have them there.”
Novak played for four years in college at St. Cloud State. He collected 34 goals and 37 assists in 134 games at St. Cloud where he majored in biomedical science.
FISH TALES: The team once again lost its leading scorer, forward Trevor Parkes, to a call up to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday. Parkes has 17 goals and 17 assists in 27 contests. The 22-year-old also has appeared six games this year for the Griffins. ... Also, forward Maxim Shalunov was assigned to the team from Rockford of the AHL. Shalunov, a 2011 fourth round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks, has appeared in 20 games with Rockford this year with four assists. The native of Chelyabinsk, Russia also scored two goals in five games earlier this season with the Walleye. ... G Hannu Toivonen has won his last three starts with a 2.00 goals-against average. ... F Kyle Rogers moved into fifth all-time in games played for Toledo ECHL franchises with his 242nd game with the Walleye on Saturday night in Wheeling. Rogers, the team captain, moved ahead of Jason Gladney, who played in 241 games for the Storm. ... F Louis-Marc Aubry is on a six-game point streak with four goals and five assists.