Max Lacroix knows that nothing other than total fitness will do if he is to force his way back into the Sheffield Steelers’ line-up.
The silky forward was badly injured in September, after scoring eight goalsand two assists in six games.
He had surgery on two fractures to his ankle and hobbled around on crutches for weeks. It was a career-worst injury.
Now he is back skating and warming up with his team-mates, but knows a spot among the import section of the roster is not a foregeone conclusion.
He told The Star: “I have to make my spot again. It won’t be easy.
“Everybody is playing well and we have too many imports now, so I will have to wait and see. I am not going to take anybody’s spot if I am 80 per cent or 85 per cent.”
Lacroix, a 26-year-old French Canadian, has been energised by his return to the squad.
“It is so good to be out on the ice with the guys especially before a big game. It was nice to be around. I wanted to stay out there and stay dressed but its too early.
“I have to get some time on the ice - it is good for my ankle to get some strength back.
“And being around the guys, the meetings all that stuff, is good for me, you have to stay focused and there is all the systems and mental stuff before a player can come back.”
Lacroix, who has played in the AHL and Danish league, thinks he is a fortnight, or longer, away from challenging for his place.
“We will have to see how things go. Obviously have to be ready and get back into it.”
Asked if he would question himself over whether he will be as good as he was, post-injury, he said: “I am not in as good in shape as I was. There are playing things you don’t lose and other things you might, I might not be as fast. But I am getting back in shape and will work hard in practice.”
As for the team, which has changed significantly since the start of the season, he said: “Rylan Galiardi has left and we have new players in. The system has changed a little bit we used to play different, it’s 1-3-1 now.
“But I have played different systems before before in north America and I am very excited to be a part of it.”
Steelers host Hull Stingrays tomorrow night.