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Thorburn says he's 'close' to return

Veteran winger wants to ease tension, help Jets raise play

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There will be no red cape waiting for him when he's finally ready to play again but at least industrious right-winger Chris Thorburn is approaching a green light.

Thorburn hasn't played for the Winnipeg Jets since the second game of the season and has been battling an undisclosed upper-body injury in the early weeks of the season.

Tuesday marked another step towards the lineup when he skated with teammates at the optional morning practice at the MTS Centre.

"I had been skating before they went on a bunch of days up until now," Thorburn said Tuesday. "I took a couple of days off since the last time I skated until today and gave my injury a rest and today I was able to do a few more things that would allow me to skate with the group so we made the decision to bring my individual skate to the pre-game.

"I'm close. I feel good. There was a little bit of time where I felt discouraged but after today I feel really good about it."

For some of the issues that ail the struggling team, Thorburn can at least provide some hard work and some hard hitting on any given night.

The 30-year-old is usually relegated to fourth-line duty but he is also among the veterans who have some leadership smarts on this team. He knows it's a fine line in that area when you're not in the lineup.

"It's different when you're in the battles or just watching the battles, to comment if you're not in them," Thorburn said. "You have to be careful there. But I like to think of myself who can bring a little bit of light to the situation. If guys are down, try to get them back up and make them feel positive. I hope the guys know that. I'm sure they do.

"I just want to come in here, bring some light, ease them up because there's a lot of tension running around here and you don't want that to get out of hand. I just hope I can bring a little bit of good."

Thorburn said he's like all players -- they hate watching.

"But sometimes you don't have a choice," he said. "So you be positive about it. You learn a lot, too. It is an easy game up there. So you have to be careful but you can learn about the system. For me, whether team's doing good or doing bad, you want to be a part of it. That's something I take a lot of pride in.

"You know me, I want to be around the guys, take part in the good or bad and right now I just wish I could do a little more.

"Until then, I know this team in here is strong-willed and I'm sure they're going to turn it around."

-- -- --

Also on the injury front, centre Jim Slater was not on the ice again Tuesday. He's listed by the team as day-to-day, maybe ready in just under a week's time.

Defenceman Mark Stuart did take part in Tuesday's optional but was not ready to play on Tuesday night.

He's now missed two games since crashing into the net in last Friday's win over the St. Louis Blues.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 23, 2013 0

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