Record: 52 – 20 – 10
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This article was published 10/3/2017 (467 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Veteran Winnipeg Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion courtesy of a bone-crushing hit from Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Sestito Wednesday night.
Enstrom left the game and was taken to hospital as a result of concerns he might have suffered facial fractures.
Sestito, a journeyman pro who was called up from the AHL for the game, was suspended four games by the NHL Thursday. He was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct on the play.
"Don’t know what the time frame is for (Enstrom)," head coach Paul Maurice said following Friday’s practice. "There’s no equitable way to sort this out because you can’t measure what we lose. And the player suspended, they all have to be treated regardless of value to the game. So, it is what it is."
The incident was troubling for Jets forward Mathieu Perreault. Sestito, a 6-5, 228-pounder, has one assist and 44 penalty minutes in nine games with the Pens this season. He also has six goals, 16 points and 121 penalty minutes with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Enstrom is 5-10, 180 pounds.
"Not too sure what’s his role on this team, really," Perreault said. "They call him up for one game, so it’s not like he has a role. He comes out, maybe get a fight and do something stupid I would say, hit a guy from behind. So, yeah, I don’t think there’s any room in this league for this kind of play anymore."
Enstrom’s injury will open the door for veteran defenceman Mark Stuart, who is expected to slot back into the lineup for today’s game against the visiting Calgary Flames (6 p.m., Sportsnet, TSN 1290).
Winnipeg trails the St. Louis Blues by five points in the race for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blues also have three games in hand on the Jets, who have 14 regular-season games remaining.
Perreault, a 5-10, 188-pounder, was asked if he fears for his own safety when he sees the way players such as Sestito conduct themselves on the ice.
"Not really, because you’d like to think guys out on the ice against you are smart enough to not do that," he said. "They’re trying to get rid of guys that are not smart at times. To understand you can’t hit a guy in a vulnerable situation. I like to think the guys I play against, they understand that."
Defenceman Josh Morrissey wasn’t on the ice Friday but is expected to be in today’s lineup. Forward Chris Thorburn also missed practice and is considered questionable.
Maurice confirmed Connor Hellebuyck will get his 13th consecutive start today after being pulled Wednesday for the seventh time this season. He allowed five goals in 15 shots in the 7-4 loss to Pittsburgh.
"We’re going to give Connor the opportunity to bounce back and fight through it," Maurice said. "I don’t look at those five (goals) as dropped pucks or five-hole from the red line. There were some good shots in there."
Hellebuyck, for his part, said battling for a post-season berth is his No. 1 concern.
"It’s the same as when I first got here," said Hellebuyck. "To win as many games as possible. That’s all we can do. We can go out and win and if we sneak into the playoffs, we sneak in. That’s still our goal and we’re not eliminated yet, so we’re going to try."
The 23-year-old said he isn’t changing his preparation. "I like my game. In the places I need to improve on, I’m working hard to improve," he said.
And what’s on his to-do list?
"I’d like to keep that private," he said. "My internal stuff. What I work on needs to be in my head and I don’t need anyone else kinda poking and prodding... I know what I need to do."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Friday, March 10, 2017 at 4:55 PM CST: Updated
March 11, 2017 at 9:28 AM: Edited