Healthy Murray putting last year behind him

Healthy Murray putting last year behind him
January 7, 2013, 3:00 pm
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In 60 games last season, Douglas Murray had four assists and 31 penalty minutes. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE – It was a season Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray would like to forget.

One of the more popular players on the roster, the hulking defenseman was in and out of the lineup with a variety of injuries throughout 2011-12. First, a broken hand forced him from 10 games in December. A fractured Adam’s apple in February removed him from action for another eight games after the All-Star break. Then, right before the playoffs began, Murray suffered a lower body injury that kept him out of four games and rendered him generally ineffective during the five-game first round loss to St. Louis.

The 32-year-old Murray looked a step behind the pace of play for most of the season even when in the lineup, perhaps as a result of his numerous ailments. Although he’s never going to be the fastest player on the ice, as Murray relies generally on his massive, 6-3, 240-pound frame and positioning to make him an effective NHL defenseman, his struggles were evident. In 60 games, Murray had four assists and 31 penalty minutes, and in the final playoff loss to St. Louis was on the ice for just 11:18 – well under his recent career average.

The four-month NHL lockout now over, Murray has returned to San Jose and was on the ice with several teammates on Monday at Sharks Ice. And, he says he’s as healthy as he’s ever been.

“I think last season I was banged up pretty much all season. I was very much looking forward to this season,” Murray said. “It was very frustrating playing last year. I think I played most of the year not 100 percent. No one plays at 100 percent, but I was playing with major problems with certain areas. I can play fully healthy right now, so I’m excited to get ‘er going.”

Murray signed with Djurgarden of the second-tier Swedish league HockeyAllsvenskan in late September, and returned to North America in early December. The club was based out of Murray’s hometown of Stockholm. He played junior hockey there in the late 1990’s before coming to North America and attending Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The Sharks drafted him in the eighth round in 1999, and he’s been a mainstay on the roster for the past seven seasons.

Although the skates at Sharks Ice are still informal as the CBA has yet to be ratified by both parties, Murray said he’s committed to doing everything in his power to prepare for an abbreviated training camp and shortened season, as difficult as that might be.

“There’s a reason guys come back here a couple weeks before training camp, and then when training camp gets going we have about seven exhibitions. There’s a reason for all that,” he said. “We don’t this time, but it’s the same for everyone, so it’s going to be very important that everybody puts in the work.”

As for his current level of conditioning, Murray said: “I’d be lying if I said I was in top game shape, because I don’t think it’s possible without playing against a full team and practicing again.”

Murray was also one of the few Sharks players directly involved in the recent collective bargaining negotiations, and helped represent the NHLPA both before and after his stint in Sweden.

What was that experience like?

“I think I got a pretty big comfort level with what was going on, which absolutely doesn’t mean that I liked it,” he said. “I think I understood the process very well and what was going on, and a lot of things I think that would have frustrated me if I wasn’t involved. But, the process itself was obviously very frustrating, and sometimes you had a hard time wrapping your head around it. But, it’s over with, and it’s time to have some fun.”

For Murray, here’s hoping it’s more fun that last year.