BUFF COM­ING BACK?

10 days af­ter con­cus­sion

Winnipeg Sun - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL FRIESEN

Ten days af­ter suf­fer­ing a con­cus­sion, Win­nipeg Jets de­fence­man Dustin Byfuglien ap­pears poised to re­turn.

Af­ter miss­ing four games, all Jets vic­to­ries, Byfuglien prac­tised in a full con­tract sweater, Thurs­day, and just needs a green light to go against the Blues, Fri­day, the first of four straight home games for Win­nipeg.

No. 33 could be joined by Dmitry Ku­likov, who’s been out a month with an undis­closed in­jury.

“They got through it, felt good,” head coach Paul Mau­rice said fol­low­ing prac­tice, Thurs­day. “And then we’ll give it an­other 24 hours, see how they’re feel­ing.”

While Byfuglien wouldn’t do in­ter­views, the re­turn of Nel­son No­gier to the AHL’S Man­i­toba Moose later in the day only re­in­forced the no­tion he or Ku­likov, or both, will play.

The sta­tus of de­fence­man Josh Mor­ris­sey re­mains up in the air, though.

The Jets top-pair­ing blue­liner missed Win­nipeg’s last game, on the road against the New York Is­lan­ders, Tues­day, and didn’t take part in Thurs­day’s prac­tice.

Byfuglien suf­fered his con­cus­sion in a game against Pitts­burgh last week, af­ter a col­li­sion with the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Jamie Olek­siak.

He re­turned to fin­ish the game be­fore more symp­toms set in a day later. He hasn’t played since.

Jets cap­tain Blake Wheeler was re­lieved his team­mate has re­cov­ered.

“Guys that miss time with that, you want to see them re­bound as fast as pos­si­ble,” Wheeler said. “A great sign see­ing him back around the guys.”

Wheeler wasn’t sur­prised Byfuglien’s symp­toms re­turned af­ter he fin­ished the Pitts­burgh game.

“That’s very, very, very typ­i­cal of con­cus­sions,” he said. “It’s not un­com­mon for it to hap­pen three or four days later. There’s no rhyme or rea­son, it seems. It trig­gered for him a lit­tle bit later. Luck­ily it was caught when it was and he got the proper rest, and now he’s ready to go.”

There’s some ques­tion about how Byfuglien was cleared to re­turn to the game af­ter he’d clearly been stunned by the col­li­sion.

A con­cus­sion ex­pert watched the video of the hit last week and told the Win­nipeg Sun the signs of con­cus­sion were clear: Byfuglien’s wob­bly legs and dif­fi­culty get­ting into the Jets bench.

While Wheeler didn’t ad­dress the NHL’S or his team’s pro­to­col di­rectly he did say aware­ness of head in­juries has greatly im­proved over the years.

“You know what to look for ... know what to feel for,” Wheeler said. “You’ve got a lot of guys look­ing at you ev­ery day, too. So even if you’re try­ing to fight it, try­ing to hide it, you nor­mally have enough peo­ple that see you ev­ery day to maybe point some­thing out that you’re not quite your­self.”

DMITRY FLUKE-IKOV

Ku­likov, in­jured in an in­no­cent-look­ing play Nov. 9 against Colorado, ac­knowl­edged how frus­trat­ing it was to go down with a freak in­jury just when he started play­ing his best.

“Yeah, fluke, like you said. It wasn’t any­thing, no big hit, no heavy col­li­sion,” he said. “Just kind of fell in an awk­ward (way) and hurt it. Ob­vi­ously I didn’t play many games be­fore that. But out of the whole sea­son I felt like that was the best prob­a­bly pe­riod, where I felt com­fort­able and felt like I had my legs and my head on my shoul­ders and ev­ery­thing.”

Ku­likov has played just six games this sea­son.

RE­LAPSE FOR COPP?

For­ward An­drew Copp had come back from a con­cus­sion to play the first two games of the New York road trip.

But he missed the third game and wasn’t practising Thurs­day, leav­ing his sta­tus in doubt for Fri­day.

“He got through those two games, played great,” Mau­rice said. “Wasn’t feel­ing good — in the Is­lan­ders game we had two ex­tra for­wards so we held him out. And he’s back push­ing him­self in the weight room, so we’re just go­ing day to day un­til he feels real good.”

VALU­ABLE LESSONS

The Jets may have learned a few things on their New York trip.

How to stay pa­tient through a tight-check­ing, muck­ing game like the ones the Devils and Is­lan­ders played would prob­a­bly be at the top of the list.

“They’re ma­tur­ing,” Mau­rice said. “One of the things you like is you’ve got to ac­cept the game that’s be­ing played. We’ve got a bunch of guys that can score some goals and can move the puck and skate well, and you’d like for it it to look like that ev­ery night. But the other team doesn’t al­low it.”

Wheeler says his team learned to bet­ter han­dle the ups and downs of games.

“We were re­silient, had to stay with it,” he said. “There were a lot of mo­men­tum swings, some­thing we’ve strug­gled with a lit­tle bit this year. And we stuck with it, for the most part.”

RANGERS WIN WAS SPE­CIAL

Not all wins are cre­ated equal.

Wheeler de­scribed the last one over the Is­lan­ders as a “re­ally com­plete game,” even though it was low-scor­ing.

It’s hard to beat a come­back vic­tory, though, like the one against the Rangers, in which the Jets scored three straight in the third pe­riod and won in a shootout.

That could cre­ate mo­men­tum that lasts.

“It’s the emo­tion of those games,” Mau­rice said. “The emo­tion on the bench is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery goal is a big cel­e­bra­tion in a good way. So that’s what we’re hop­ing for, is to keep that emo­tion.”

KEVIN KING/WIN­NIPEG SUN FILE

CP

Jets’ Dmitry Ku­likov (left) and Dustin Byfuglien chat dur­ing train­ing tramp in Septem­ber. Ku­likov, who has been side­lined for a month with an undis­closed in­jury, could be back in the lineup tonight. Like­wise for Dustin Byfuglien, who missed four games.

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