Kings' Matt Greene clears the puck during a game against the Chicago… (Harry How / Getty Images )
Long layoffs are a curious thing for an injured athlete.
Weeks, sometimes months, creep by slowly. Then, suddenly, there is a quick burst of progress.
That's what has happened with Kings defenseman Matt Greene, who was officially cleared for contact Monday. He practiced with his teammates in the morning and got on a plane with them to travel to a game for the first time this season.
This does not mean Greene, who had back surgery in late January to repair a herniated disk, will be in the Kings' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks at San Jose. Or necessarily in action Thursday against Columbus at Staples Center. Typically, a handful of practices with contact would be required before returning.
"It's good for him to travel and start getting out," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Monday. "He wasn't able to travel before because of his rehab.
"I was hoping, well, not hoping but originally I wanted him to play tomorrow, but that's not the case."
Greene was more than happy to report that things were unchanged. There have been no setbacks in his recovery.
"It's the same as when I talked to you guys last week," he said Monday. "I am going to travel. It's just the same thing: Skate and rehab. That's not going to change."
He was injured early in the first period of the season opener against Chicago on Jan. 19, administering a hard hit. He finished the game and has been out since then. Monday was a big step forward, and Greene said there was no timetable regarding his return.
"They haven't told me anything, just keep skating," he said. "The team's playing well. If they need me I'll get back in the lineup. That's the most I've done just because we finally got a chance to do a full practice. The guys are playing every other night and it's tough to get somebody willing to do some contact.
"It's good to get out there today with two days between games. You've got to play without fear."
AT SAN JOSE
Where: HP Pavilion.
On the air: TV: Channel 13; Radio: 1150.
Record vs. Sharks: 1-1-0.
Etc.: The Kings are 21-9-2 since Feb. 11, the second-highest point total in the Western Conference (44), trailing only Chicago's 48 points.