Record: 52 – 20 – 10
It took longer than he wanted, but Toby Enstrom is finally ready to return to the lineup after missing nearly two months of action.
"I would have been ready if you asked me two weeks ago," Enstrom said following Saturday's practice, in which he passed his final hurdle. "I feel great. The last few days have been good for me, with the team on the ice. No setbacks at all."
Enstrom, 33, is expected to resume his normal spot on a pairing with Dustin Byfuglien in today's matinee against the San Jose Sharks. He's missed 23 games after suffering a lower-body injury in a Nov. 18 contest against the New Jersey Devils.
"It's never fun to sit on the side. But it makes is easier seeing the team playing well. It's great to see that everyone is chipping in and doing their part," said Enstrom. Winnipeg was 12-4-3 at the time he went down, and went 12-7-4 in his absence.
The Jets will now have their top six defencemen all in the lineup at the same time, pushing Ben Chiarot to the press box. Rookie Tucker Poolman is also still with the team, and could be headed back to the Manitoba Moose soon to get some valuable playing time.
"That's a big thing on this team, too. It doesn't matter who's out or not. We have guys that are waiting to get into the lineup. Everyone that stepped in — you see Mark Scheifele injured here, too – has done a great job. The depth is definitely something the Winnipeg Jets have, and it's great," Enstrom said Saturday of how others have stepped up.
Enstrom doesn't bring the offence like he used to, as he has just two assists so far this season. But he's still a reliable puck-mover who can help his team get out of trouble in their own end.
"He's one of those solid D-men that's always in the right place. The first pass is key with him. He's one of those players that makes the forwards get the puck a little easier out of the zone," Byfuglien said Saturday.
Enstrom, who is an unrestricted free agent following this season, has had plenty of time to watch the team from above to see what's working so well as the Jets push themselves near the top of the National Hockey League standings.
"I felt like we already had it going last year. We kept building and the coach did a good job here and kept pushing the guys and we finally got some pieces together, and it feels like we're moving the right way every day, as it moves on," said Enstrom. "Goaltending has been really good for us, too. It makes a huge difference. Everyone is happy right now. We just have to keep pushing the right way."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.