The Daily Gazette
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Blanchard visits Rats

River Rats forward Nicolas Blanchard was a surprise guest at practice this morning at the former Knickerbocker Arena.

Blanchard, 21, was released from Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass. early Monday evening. His roommate, alternate captain Mike Angelidis, made the 65-minute drive out to pick him up and bring him back to their apartment.

"I got a surprise call around 5 o'clock, saying he was coming home," Angelidis said. "It's great to see him, and have him back."

Blanchard was sitting next to the window where the guardrail came through the side of the Yankee Trails coach when the team bus slid in wintry weather and flipped on its side in the early morning hours of Feb. 19. He had been in the hospital since the accident, while teammates Joe Jensen, Casey Borer and Jonathan Paiement and radio color analyst John Hennessy were released the next day.

"I'm so happy to get out of the hospital and see the boys today," Blanchard said. "It makes me feel better. I couldn't stay one day more, (but) I had good service there. They take care of me so well."

Players were thrilled at the sight of Blanchard, who suffered deep cuts to his side and stomach.

"It's awesome," defenseman Mark Flood said. "He's a really well-liked guy on the team. When he wasn't around, the guys were really concerned about him, even though we knew he was doing OK. It's pretty cool to see him in here."

Sitting on a couch in the team lounge, attached to the dressing room, here's what Blanchard had to say about his ordeal:

Have Angelidis help change his bandages -- "I won't let Angie touch them. The nurse is going to come to my apartment to change my dressing and take care of me."

"My father and my mom and my sister came to visit me for two days and they left after that. They want to make sure their son was OK."

"My father and my brother is coming on Thursday to stay for the weekend, get me some food and just hang out."

How long to have bandages -- "I don't know, probably a while; a couple weeks for sure. I have a big injury on my stomach, so I don't know how many times it's going to take to cure but maybe a couple weeks."

"My first thing was if I'm going to play hockey in the future, you know. After the radiography, after they take all the radiography and all the scans, the doctor told me I have no fracture, no bone was moving. I was so happy. My neck was OK. My spine was OK, so I was happy. It could be worse. It could be worse."

"I was sleeping listening to my ipod laying down on the (seat). I remember everything. I remember a bad sound from the wheels and I was kind of lost. I told (myself), 'He's going to he's going to get it back,' but it didn't happen. It pass so fast, you know, so quick."

"I was right on the window where the guardrail came through. I think the guardrail cut me and the glass got me a lot. I am lucky the guardrail didn't touch my organs."

"When I'm not moving it's OK, I don't feel really pain. But each time I'm moving, I feel it in my whole body. When I lay down, I can't force my abs. It's not too bad. Day after day, it's getting better."

"Someone drove me here. I ask Mad Dog (trainer Brian Maddox) if I can drive and he told me maybe in a couple of days. I need to drive. I have to go get some food."

"Actually, it wasn't so bad, the food in the hospital."

Listen to the Rats road games -- "Why not? I've got nothing else to do. I will listen, for sure."

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