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Gretzky Talks of March Return : Kings: Nothing is certain, but center says his rehabilitation has progressed more rapidly than expected.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wayne Gretzky’s outlook regarding the prognosis of his injured back is so positive that he is telling people he might start skating in 12 weeks and might return to the Kings’ lineup in March.

“I have ventured into new waters (in rehabilitation), and we’ll see how I react,” Gretzky told the Toronto Sun on Wednesday. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now. Two weeks ago, it wasn’t there. The last week has been a big step for me.”

Gretzky, sidelined indefinitely because of a herniated thoracic disk, became optimistic when his second magnetic resonance imaging test showed major improvement. Rehabilitation has increased to 2 1/2 hours a day. He is stretching and has been riding a stationary bike for 15 to 20 minutes.

The inflammation in his back is being reduced, along with the pain.

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Gretzky was unavailable for comment, but King owner Bruce McNall sounded a cautionary note on Wednesday night.

“This is what he’s hoping for,” McNall said. “It’s much improved, so there’s a good sense he might be back. But it’s so subject to change. He’d be totally guessing about a timetable. If he continues to progress, if everything feels good, it’s a safe bet he may play again. That’s a long way away.”

Gretzky said his return is not certain.

“This is all based on the assumption that I stay the way I am,” he told the Toronto Globe and Mail. “Four weeks from now, when I get into a healthier condition, I could get the pain back, and then there’s no choice: they’ll have to operate.”


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