THE pain, sweat and uncertainty are all worth it when days like Sunday come along, Jason Jaffray said.
The 30-year-old left-winger, 14 months and fully recovered from major reconstructive knee surgery, was recalled by the Winnipeg Jets from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps.
He and fellow Sunday recall Arturs Kulda, a 23-year-old defenceman, are likely participants tonight when the Jets meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at the MTS Centre at 7:30 p.m. (TSN Jets, 1290).
For Jaffray, who last season was a front-line player for the AHL's Manitoba Moose, it will be his 37th NHL game, one he certainly had some doubt about along the way.
"Frustrating, when you've got to sit out for six months, it's the longest six months you'll ever go through," Jaffray said Sunday in the Jets locker-room. "To get back to this situation I'm in now, I look back at all the bike rides and workouts and physiotherapy that you had to go through to get back to the NHL, it's definitely worth it for sure."
Jaffray, after September, 2010 surgery, returned to the Moose lineup in the spring and was a key player for the team in the playoffs.
"Just in the last two, three weeks is when I've completely forgotten about it," he said of his knee. "On the (IceCaps) road trip, we played a three-in-three and that was the only time I felt an ache in the knee, when you hammer down on it for three or four days straight.
"In the last two or three weeks, I haven't had any problems at all."
With the IceCaps, the team captain had seven goals in 15 games, including a Saturday night hat trick that sparked an 8-4 home win over Connecticut.
"Personally (the season) started out slow for me, switching lines around a little bit and trying to do adapt to some new linemates," he said. "But in the last two weeks, things started to go well.
"I just want to bring my game to the table, work hard and bring a strong work ethic and fill the role as needed. They know what I can do. I just want to help the team out in whatever way I can."
Jets and former Moose coach Claude Noel said that will include being able to play a four-line game.
"(Jaffray) is a smart player, plays with weight," Noel said. "He knows his way around the ice. He doesn't have a lot of speed but he can play, at the net, around the net, And he can finish and he knows how to play the game.
"I don't know exactly yet (which line) but I know we've got to play four lines and we've got to get more minutes from the four lines. You can't keep playing three lines."
Jaffray said he's looking forward to experiencing the MTS Centre on an NHL game night -- he played only road games in the pre-season before being sent down -- and that his familiarity with Winnipeg and the arena are assets.
"Familiarity obviously helps out a lot, being able to come into the dressing room and feel comfortable with the coach, the trainers and I obviously know quite a few players on the team, too," he said. "That definitely doesn't work against me."
Kulda, who has played six previous NHL games with Atlanta, has six points in 13 games and was a plus-nine with the IceCaps.
Also Sunday, the Jets announced that defenceman Paul Postma has been re-assigned to the IceCaps. He'll be taking some time off this week due to a death in his family.
As well, the Jets said that defenceman Derek Meech, who hasn't played since Oct. 20 and has only suited up in two games, has undergone surgery for a lower-body injury, believed to be his knee, and is expected to miss a further six to eight weeks.