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This article was published 26/3/2015 (2442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Blake Wheeler’s lip was still swollen and busted up, the 20-some stitches making a mini-train track across his mouth.
In short, he looked like he had gone 15 rounds with Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather.
The Winnipeg Jets winger touched on a lot of subjects after Thursday’s pre-game skate, from the importance of the homestand to facing Dustin Tokarski. And it was near the end of the scrum, not long after he used the word ‘predicated’ when a reporter asked him:
"How hard is it to say predicated with a mouth like that?"
"I got it out," said Wheeler, grinning. "It’s not bad. It could have been a lot worse. I was lucky the way it turned out, the way the teeth came out was probably a blessing because they were able to stick them back in. Hopefully they take back in there."
Wheeler, just to recap, took a puck to the face in Monday’s win over the Edmonton Oilers and later returned wearing a full cage. He was also in the lineup the next night in Vancouver.
But for those who were there, the scene was pretty gruesome. Wheeler lost his front two teeth and needed stitches to close a nasty gash. Asked if he had to pick his teeth up off the ice or out of his mouth, Wheeler said:
"I think they were stuck in my mouthguard. You don’t realize how big teeth are until they come out.
"It was weird. It takes a little bit of time to get 20-some stitches. I was ready to get back in there but they had to stitch me back up and piece me back together literally. We were lucky to have one of our docs on the road and he was literally piecing me back together."
PERREAULT CLOSE: The Jets welcomed back Dustin Byfuglien Thursday and more reinforcements are close to returning. Winger Mathieu Perreault and defenceman Ben Chiarot both wore regular jerseys at the pre-game skate while Bryan Little was wearing no-contact orange. Perreault hopes to play Sunday against Chicago and the club is hopeful all three would be back, at the latest, April 4th vs. Vancouver.
"It feels good, I’m almost there," said Perreault. "A couple more skates with the guys and I think I’m good to go. I’m hoping (to play) the Chicago game because we have a couple of games in between and that would give me the chance to skate with the guys and have a hard practice and see how it feels. Hopefully it’s that game and if not, pretty soon after that."
Perreault has missed 16 games and, before he was injured, had 18 goals and 18 assists in 56 games, settling in on the left side of Mark Scheifele and playing important minutes on the power-play.
"It’s tough. It’s part of the game. But it’s the first time for me in my career being out for so long," said Perreault. "It’s unfortunate. But I’m happy now because I’m pretty much all healed up."
Jets coach Paul Maurice hasn’t indicated where Perreault might fit in when he returns, but he is reluctant to break up the Scheifle-Drew Stafford-Wheeler trio. That could mean Perreault settles in on left wing with Adam Lowry. In any case, his return will be a big plus for a club in a playoff push.
"When (Perreault) got injured, the private conversations in the coaches’ room were we knew we were in some real trouble," said Maurice. "At the start of the year you’re just learning about a player and the kind of impact he could have. He came into a team that was trying to become a better defensive hockey team. He played centre ice, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on him to be that guy. And he played well.
"But when he went to the wing he just took off. He had really good chemistry with Mark Scheifele and whoever the right winger was. He got on the point on the power play when we were near the bottom of the league (in power-play percentage) and from that point until the time he got injured we’ve been in the top five in the league on the power play. What we missed the most is he’s got an excitement on the ice. He’s one of our hardest-forechecking guys. We’re supposed to be this big, fast team and one of our hardest forecheckers is Matty Perreault. He just gets on the puck and won’t come off it. He knocks stuff down and gets the puck into his feet and fights for it and then get crushed along the way and get up and do it again.
"We’re excited about getting him back. You forget about these guys. And then they come out to practice today and you’re standing there going, ‘Oh man... that guy’s a good player.’ "