WINNIPEG — Mark Scheifele has come a long way since the early days of an injury that made it difficult for him to even sleep.
The Winnipeg Jets forward participated in his first full-contact practice Monday since being hit into the boards in a Dec. 27 game against the Edmonton Oilers. Scheifele won’t play Tuesday against Arizona but could get the green light to return Friday versus St. Louis, head coach Paul Maurice said after practice.
The team’s top-line centre wouldn’t give specifics about what’s suspected to be a shoulder injury, but said it “sucked” being in a sling and then getting bored.
“I was pretty immobilized for the start of it,” said Scheifele, who’s missed 15 games after registering 38 points in 38 games. “That was tough to sleep like that and go through all that.”
Luckily, he didn’t have to do it on his own.
“I had to bring my brother (Kyle) in for a week to keep me sane,” he said. “Living with (teammate Andrew Copp), he was a great roommate through it all.
“Obviously the trainers and the team that I got behind me helped me in the recovery and did a really good job.”
Getting through his first real practice almost six weeks after the injury was a big step forward.
“It’s nice to get some bumps in and be feeling good from it,” he said prior to undergoing another doctor’s evaluation later Monday. “I’m happy with my progress.”
Seeing the Jets go 10-2-3 during his absence also helped.
After Scheifele went down, Maurice moved captain Blake Wheeler into his spot from the right wing. Scheifele praised his teammates for stepping up, particularly Wheeler.
“(Wheeler) plays hard, he’s been awesome,” he said. “He’s playing solid all over the ice, making plays just like he always is.
“Everything you can expect from him, he’s doing it.”
That will have to continue because more injuries are piling up for the Jets (31-13-9), who are on a seven-game points streak.
Forwards Adam Lowry, Brandon Tanev, Matt Hendricks and Shawn Matthais are out with upper-body injuries. Maurice said Hendricks could be the first one back. Defenceman Jacob Trouba (ankle) and goalie Steve Mason (concussion) are also hurt.
The Jets called up forwards Brendan Lemieux and Nic Petan from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose on Monday afternoon and placed Lowry on injured reserve.
If Scheifele does return against the Blues, Maurice said he’ll be at centre. But where Wheeler goes is still up in the air.
“Mark will go back at centre and we’ll decide, based on the other injuries that we have and how we look (Tuesday against the Coyotes), whether we leave Blake there or not,” Maurice said. “So they wouldn’t necessarily play together if that happened.
“It would maybe even be that Andrew Copp goes back to the wing and you balance your lines differently, but we’ll make that decision in a few days.”
While Scheifele, 24, has focused hard on his rehabilitation _ ”everyone” told him to slow down _ he did take a break Sunday and went to his first NFL game, the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
The big New England Patriots’ fan took along his brother, his best friend from back home and teammates Copp and Trouba. While the Patriots lost 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles, it was still a fun experience.
“It was unbelievable,” Scheifele said. “We didn’t sit down the entire game. Our legs were burning after the first quarter.
“After every play, they get a five-yard run and we’re fist-pumping and-high fiving everyone around us. The whole atmosphere, the building in Minnesota was beautiful, the fans were nuts, the whole atmosphere around the Super Bowl was unbelievable.”