Coach Todd McLellan said Sheppard may be someone who actually benefits from the NHL lockout.
“If there’s a player that this lockout scenario worked out for, it would probably be Shep,” McLellan said. “The injury, the surgeries, the recovery and then finding his game. The timing, the stamina, the conditioning, the mental part of it. He was lucky to have this time to accomplish that.”
Still, he added, Sheppard isn’t a lock to be on the opening roster in even a fourth-line role.
“It’s still his job to come and earn a spot, to perform,” McLellan said. “But we will give him that opportunity.”
Sheppard said he feels good about his progress and his game in ways that go beyond the points he’s put up in the AHL.
“Numbers are numbers, but just to be part of a group and coming to practice every day and travel with them is the kind of thing I’ve been wanting and missing since I’ve been injured,” he said. “You feel like you’re a hockey player, that you were meant to do it.”