BOSTON Youll forgive Brenden Dillon and Eric Comrie if theyve lost track of what day it is. Or what city theyre in. Because the Winnipeg Jets teammates are in the midst of their own unique, extended road trip, one which began 10 days ago in Detroit and has yet to end thanks to COVID-19.
The pair chartered with the club to the Motor City on Jan. 12, only to learn a few hours later theyd tested positive. Both had to isolate for five days, unable to return to Winnipeg with the team following a 3-0 victory over the Red Wings on Jan. 13.
Dillon made the 850 kilometre drive a few days later to Washington, where the former Capitals defenceman still owns a home, but his results still werent sufficient enough to allow him to rejoin his teammates. And so he missed Tuesdays 4-3 overtime loss in D.C. along with Thursdays 5-2 defeat in Nashville, instead flying straight to Boston on Friday morning to hit the ice for the first time in what seems like ages.
Just a really long road trip, Dillon said following the skate at the Bruins practice facility. In my case, I was asymptomatic so sitting around wishing you could be part of the last couple of games. Overall, its frustrating but Im back now and kind of move on.
The rugged veteran hopes to get back in the lineup on Saturday as his team takes on Boston.
Comrie, along with Jets goalie coach Wade Flaherty, found themselves in a similar boat after they also tested positive in Michigan. Based on their viral levels they were quickly ruled out for the Washington game, so the pair drove 860 kilometres together to Nashville earlier this week.
So that was a fun 10 hours we had together in the car, said Comrie,
Although Flaherty got the green light to get back on the ice Thursday, Comrie did not. He had to fly commercially to Boston later that evening NHL protocols prevented him from getting on the charter until his levels hit a certain point and he was finally cleared to resume practicing on Friday.
I have no idea right now. Its a day-by-day process getting used to speed, getting used to shots, getting used to the cardio effect. Well go from there, Comrie said of when he might be ready to play.
Connor Hellebuyck will start against Boston, with Mikhail Berdin likely backing him up. Whether Hellebuyck goes back-to-back on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh remains to be seen.
If it were up to me, Id say yes, Comrie said of suiting up this weekend. Id like to play as much as I can. Its not my decision to make, its the coachs decision. Hes going to say when Im ready. I feel ready whenever he wants to put me in.
In addition to Dillon and Comrie, interim coach Dave Lowry may also get captain Blake Wheeler back. He went hard in Fridays 45-minute optional practice, in which all but Pierre-Luc Dubois and Andrew Copp participated. Wheeler, who suffered a knee injury on Dec. 10, would first have to be activated from long-term injured reserve, which could force general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to make other moves to get his roster under the salary cap.
We will talk to Blake later (Friday) and see where hes at. Our hope is hes getting close to being a player. I cant give you a definite yes that hes available, but hes getting closer, said Lowry.
He wasnt surprised to see such a big turnout for an optional practice, especially on the heels of a disappointing result less than 24 hours earlier.
I think when you get out on the road either you sit in your hotel room or you get out and do something. I believe that the result from (Thursday) night might factor in. You could tell by the pace and how hard they worked. The guys werent overly pleased with the result, he said.
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.