The 32-year-old goaltender has been skating with teammates and working out with goalie coach Roland Melanson during the past week as part of his rehabilitation program after having surgery May 1 to repair torn cartilage in his left hip. Schneider was expected to have a five-month recovery period and remains on that timetable, which would take him to Oct. 1; the Devils open the season Oct. 6 against the Edmonton Oilers in Gothenburg, Sweden, as part of the 2018 NHL Global Series.
Schneider took part in physicals and medical tests Thursday, the opening day of Devils training camp, at Prudential Center. It is unknown if he will practice with the team or on his own when on-ice workouts begin Friday.
“I’ve skated with the guys a few times, but I wouldn’t call it a full practice by any means, so I’m still in the rehabilitation and recover phase,” Schneider said. “We’ll take it day by day to when I can ramp up intensity and volume. Those decisions will be made by the training staff. We’re not looking to have a setback late by pushing too hard, but the goal is to get me in game shape as soon as possible.”
Before their regular-season opener against the Oilers, the Devils will play a preseason game against SC Bern of Switzerland’s National League A at PostFinance Arena in Bern on Oct. 1 (1:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
“You have to practice and practice hard for a lengthy period of time before you’re ready for a game,” Schneider said. “The goal (of the surgery) was not only for this season, but I want to be healthy and effective for many more years, so it’s not just a short-sighted thing I had done to get back for this season. I want to make sure that throughout my duration in [New] Jersey that I can get back to being as effective as possible. We’re keeping the long-term goals in mind here as well, so nobody is trying to rush or hurry things up.”
Shero said he thinks Schneider should be able to travel with the team to Europe even if he isn’t cleared to play, although that decision will be determined by athletic trainer Kevin Morley and physical therapist Chris Stackpole.
“He’s been skating for a few weeks, so everything is basically on course and I think the timetable remains 5-6 months since his surgery,” Shero said. “One thing I do know is that we won’t rush and push him. He’s not here to participate in the exhibition [game], but everything is trending in the right direction and we’ll see the next couple of days as do whether he’ll (practice with teammates) or work on his own on the ice.”
Schneider missed 16 regular-season games with a groin/hip injury sustained in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 23, and went 0-10-2 with a 4.04 goals-against average and .863 save percentage in his final 12 regular-season appearances. Schneider finished 17-16-6 with his highest goals-against average (2.93) and lowest save percentage (.907) in five seasons with the Devils.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he relieved Keith Kinkaid in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, then started Game 3 and made 34 saves in a 5-2 victory. Schneider finished with a 1.78 GAA and .950 save percentage in four games (three starts) and New Jersey lost the best-of-7 series in five games.
Kinkaid, 29, went 26-10-3 last season in an NHL career-high 41 games (38 starts), finishing with a 2.77 GAA and .913 save percentage. He was 7-0-1 with a 2.25 GAA and .931 save percentage in eight straight starts from March 23-April 5, helping the Devils qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2012. He had a 5.87 GAA and .804 save percentage in the first two games of the series against the Lightning.
Schneider, who has three seasons after this one remaining on a seven-year contract extension he signed with New Jersey in July 2014, said he won’t overdo his workouts during rehab.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a time when I could return, but right now I’m more focused on the immediacy of feeling better every step and every stage and doing the things I need to do to feel game ready,” he said. “I’m hopeful it’ll be sooner than later, but we’re open to all the options and what’s best for me.”