P.K. Subban says he won't rush back to action if there is any risk of making a "scary" neck injury worse.
The Montreal Canadiens star defenceman spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since he suffered the injury late in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on March 10. He skated in his first full practice with the team since the incident.
"I have to follow what the doctors say," Subban, who has missed six games, said from Brossard, Que. "I've still got some symptoms from the injury and they don't want me back unless I'm at 100 per cent.
"I want to be patient. It's the first time in my career I've been out of the lineup because of an injury."
He and centre David Desharnais, who is close to a return from a broken foot, are to accompany the team to Detroit but Subban won't play against the Red Wings on Thursday night. There's a chance he will come back Saturday night at home against the New York Rangers.
The Bell Centre fell silent with 2:26 left against the Sabres when defenceman Alexei Emelin crashed into the fallen Subban's head near the end boards. The 27-year-old writhed in pain on the ice until team medical staff put him on a stretcher and took him to hospital.
Subban gave a little hand signal as he left the ice to show he was OK.
"I've always been taught not to stay down on the ice, but to get up after something happens," he said. "In that situation, where you start getting weird feelings in your hands, it's a little scary.
"The first thing I wanted to do, because I knew it was my neck, was to move my hands and my legs. Also, if my parents were watching, they could see that my hands were moving and stuff. Once [trainer] Graham [Rynbend] came out, I felt it was best to stay down. They took every precaution for my safety."
It was an unusual situation for Subban. He played through minor injuries before but had not missed a game because of one. This injury ended a streak of 274 consecutive games played (308 including playoffs). He last sat out a game on Jan. 30, 2013.
"It meant a lot to me to play six years in this league and not miss a game through injury, but if I was going to miss one, that's how I'd want to go out — in a freak incident like that, not where someone ran me over or something like that," he said. "It was just bad luck.
"Hopefully I have a long career left and, once this passes, hopefully we can just start another streak."
With the Canadiens well out of a playoff spot, there is no need to rush him back.
While coach Michel Therrien said Subban will decide when he is ready to return, the 2013 Norris trophy winner as the NHL's top rearguard said he'll leave it to the doctors to say when he can resume playing without risk of aggravating the injury.
"The good thing is there is no structural damage," he said. "Now, it's just about getting my mobility back.
"It's tough when you're out there and you're struggling to see over your shoulder. With the way the game is played now, it's so fast, you can't afford to lose that half of second. You either turn the puck over and it ends up in your net or you end up getting hurt. And the way I play the game, a big part of it is about instincts. I don't want to take that out of my game."