Jets’ Wheeler ready to go back to work against Kings

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He missed just two games, but Blake Wheeler will freely admit there were moments over the last week when it felt like he had been out of the Winnipeg Jets lineup for an eternity.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/02/2015 (2828 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He missed just two games, but Blake Wheeler will freely admit there were moments over the last week when it felt like he had been out of the Winnipeg Jets lineup for an eternity.

And watching his own team’s games on TV? That’s not anything the veteran winger wants to live through ever again.

Nor, it would seem, does his wife.

TREVOR HAGAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26), right, shown here scoring on Edmonton Oilers' goaltender Viktor Fasth (35) in a shootout in Winnipeg on February 16.

To hear Wheeler tell it, she will be ecstatic Wheeler will be back patrolling the right wing for the Jets when they play host to the Los Angeles Kings Sunday afternoon.

“I just talk… I tell my wife things she doesn’t even understand,” said Wheeler Saturday when asked if he had nervously paced while watching his Jets against the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues last week.

“She just kind of looks at me like I’m crazy. I’m talking about nuances about the game she has no idea what I’m talking about.

“I’m sure she’s pretty happy to get me out of the house, too.”

Wheeler was back at practice for the Jets Saturday morning and is eligible to come off the injured-reserve list prior to Sunday’s puck drop against the Stanley Cup champions. Coach Paul Maurice said Wheeler will get the green light if he feels as good on game day as he did Saturday.

Maurice left his top two lines intact at practice — Andrew Ladd working with Bryan Little and Michael Frolik; Mark Scheifele centering newcomers Drew Stafford and Jiri Tlusty — and that meant Wheeler was on the right side of Adam Lowry and Chris Thorburn.

And when he was asked if his absence — even if was only two games — made him appreciate the game even more, Wheeler grinned then cracked:

“You ever heard of Wally Pip before?”

“I really liked the way those (top) two lines played the last game and when you’ve got a guy coming off injury there’s always some doubt and how it fits,” said Maurice. “We’ll start him there and there’s lots of room to move guys around.”

Wheeler, the Jets third-leading scorer behind Little and Ladd, has been exceptionally durable for the Jets, missing only four games in the last four years. But he took a shot off the knee against the Washington Capitals 10 days ago and while he played 22 minutes two nights later against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was clear he was still hobbled.

“That was the disappointing thing… all the work in the last few years to try and get to the point where we are now: in a playoff position fighting for a playoff spot,” said Wheeler. “And to have to watch, that was the hardest part. The guys made it a lot easier by the way they played. The last game I was out I was just crawling out of my skin. I wanted to be out there and part of that game. You never want to miss… some things are unavoidable.

“If you can’t play, you can’t play. There’s a difference between being hurt and injured. No matter what I always feel like I can still go out there and play. I’m lucky to have Robby (Rob Milette, the Jets head athletic therapist) pump the brakes once in awhile. (Sitting out) was the right call, long term for sure.

“It definitely makes you appreciate everything. You miss everything, your routine… all the guys are going through their routine and getting excited for a game and you’re just kind of a bystander. You miss everything about it.”

The Jets had Adam Pardy playing both forward and defence at practice on Saturday and he’ll likely work on left wing with Jim Slater and Anthony Peluso on the fourth line while moving back to the blue-line in penalty-kill situations.

Winger Matt Halichuk, meanwhile, is still expected back on the ice in early March.

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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