Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Back betrays Clitsome, out for season

Blue-liner underwent surgery Thursday in California

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GRANT CLITSOME'S final game of the 2013-14 season came on Dec. 17 in Buffalo. Officially, his season came to an end this week on an operating table in California.

The Jets issued a statement Friday morning revealing the 28-year-old defenceman underwent season-ending back surgery Thursday at the Marina Spine Center in Marina del Rey, Calif. The surgery was performed by renowned specialist Dr. Robert Watkins Sr. but no other details were provided.

Dr. Watkins Sr., according to his website watkinsspine.com, has "treated more professional athletes with spinal injuries than any surgeon in the world."

Clitsome, who signed a three-year contract in July worth $6.2 million, was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 26. He had two goals and 10 assists in 32 games before the injury.

POSTMA RETURNS: Friday was the final day for defenceman Paul Postma's blood-thinner medication. Sunday or Monday, he'll be ready for contact and back to full-practice mode after being absent since Oct. 26 because of a blood clot in his leg.

The defenceman said the clot actually went away some time ago and he did well with the medication.

"I've felt fine the last two months," he said after skating Friday with the no-contact orange jersey.

"Because of the blood thinners, it's such a risk to be on them and be physical. Anything could happen, a bruise or internal bleeding. It's pretty scary stuff I didn't know about, but I know now.

"I'm just kind of glad it's over with."

Now what's left is to regain game condition and sharpness.

DEFENCE-CENTRIC: Jets coach Paul Maurice has spent much time talking about defence this week. "It's not all a function of prior to me getting here they weren't interested in playing defence," he said Friday.

"It's that when you're in the stretch they were in, that there's the pressure to win and the pressure to go, players always revert to what they know, and that's pushing harder and that's trying to break something loose. And that's a higher risk that gets built into your game and there's never any patience or calm in the defensive game.

"Guys want to do more, but so much of playing well defensively is doing less, harder."

REUNITED? Today's game sees former Toronto Marlies head coach, Maurice, against his former assistant, Dallas Eakins, now head coach of the Oilers.

Maurice talked to the Oilers after Eakins was hired last summer.

"He's got a strong voice with a young team and that's exactly what you want, in my opinion," Maurice said. "And you don't need two.

"I know this. Dallas Eakins at any point, did not need my help. I'd work with that guy any day of the week. I've got all the time in the world for him."

UP AND DOWN: Jets' prospect Carl Klingberg put in a lot of miles over the last few days just to get in a good skate with his NHL brethren. With Evander Kane on injured reserve and Devin Setoguchi battling the flu before the Calgary game, the Jets recalled Klingberg from the St. John's IceCaps. He joined the team in time for the game-day skate in Calgary, but was reassigned to St. John's on Friday.

ROUND II? The last time the Jets and Oilers met, Dec. 23 in Edmonton, the game ended with a melee stemming from a reaction to Nail Yakupov's forearm shiver to Ondrej Pavelec earlier in the contest.

Zach Bogosian received a spearing major and game misconduct, with Chris Thorburn, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd and Mark Stuart -- along with Yakupov -- all picking up misconducts inside the final four minutes.

Asked Friday if he would say anything to Yakupov, Pavelec said: "Why would I? He knows he did it. I don't have to say anything. He saw the replay."

NOTABLE NUMBERS: Dustin Byfuglien will play in his 500th NHL game today. Chris Thorburn just recently hit the milestone on Dec. 31 versus Buffalo and two other Jets -- Olli Jokinen (1,136) and Andrew Ladd (581) -- have already joined the 500 club... The Oilers have given up four or more goals in 29 of their 50 games this season, including eight out of the last nine, and they have been beaten by at least three goals 16 times... The Jets have seven players who have reached double digits in goals through 48 games, up from three in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. The double-digit crew: Blake Wheeler (17), Bryan Little (16), Evander Kane (14), Olli Jokinen (13), Dustin Byfuglien (11), Andrew Ladd (10) and Michael Frolik (10).

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 C2

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