April 2, 2012
'Overjoyed' Winchester returns to lineupGets first point in nearly four months after recovering from concussion
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Jesse Winchester couldn’t hide his excitement.
After missing 44 games with post-concussion syndrome he suffered following a hit by then-Buffalo Sabre Paul Gaustad on Dec. 20, Winchester returned to the lineup Sunday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Winchester got his baptism by fire.
With Jason Spezza returning to Ottawa to be with his wife Jennifer for the birth of their second child and Daniel Alfredsson out with the flu, Winchester took shifts with the top line.
“I’m just overjoyed at getting a chance to play,” said Winchester, who had an assist (his first point since Dec. 8) on Nick Foligno’s second-period goal. “I know it sounds corny, but that’s the way I feel.”
It was a long, difficult road for Winchester to get back on track.
The Long Sault native never thought he’d be out so long when he suffered the injury, but it was only in the past 10 days that we started feeling like he has fully recovered.
“I don’t think I ever would have guessed it would take me this long,” said Winchester. “I just figured it was going to be the typical (10 days) and I’d be back in type of thing. I thought it would be a Christmas break.
“I don’t want to say I underestimated (the concussion) I just didn’t know it could have lingering effects like that. I didn’t feel any pain when I was hit. I felt like I could have gone back into the game. Then, time went by, weeks went by, then the all-star break and I wasn’t back to (100%).”
Coach Paul MacLean said it was good to get Winchester back.
“We really wanted to make sure that he was up to speed and he was physically going to be able to do it,” said MacLean. “Actually, he was badgering me for the last couple of days to get back into play.”
THIS 'N' THAT
Spezza got the call at 2:30 a.m. Sunday that his wife Jennifer was in labour. He caught the first flight out of New York. Nicola Patricia Spezza, a sister for Sophie, was born at 6:15 a.m. MacLean said there was a belief Spezza may return for the game, “but we found out it wasn’t possible.” As for Alfredsson, “we only found out just before the game he wasn’t playing.” ... The Senators had another call from Toronto go against them. This time, Isles defenceman Mark Streit was awarded a goal at 7:55 of the first when he angled his skate to beat Craig Anderson. The league’s explanation was Streit didn’t use a distinct kicking motion. I don’t think he tried to get his stick down, either ... Rob Klinkhammer showed his speed skating skills by breezing past defenceman Andrew MacDonald in the first. Then, “The Missing Klink” missed the net in alone.
AROUND THE BOARDS
Not sure if I should be sitting here writing this column in this asbestos-infested building on Long Island. As I reported earlier this year, you have to wonder how much longer the Islanders are going to make their home here? The Barclays Center in Brooklyn — which will hold only 14,500 for hockey — is set to open next fall. The NBA’s New Jersey Nets are moving there. Wonder if the Isles will be far behind? Their lease in Nassau runs until 2015, but if the building does have asbestos issues, that could be a good reason to get out ... Not going to see many better passes than the behind-the-back effort Milan Michalek made to set up Sergei Gonchar. “That was sick,” said former Senators defenceman Jason York. Great analysis.
IN THE TRAPEZOID
Prospect Mika Zibanejad, the Senators’ No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, could join the club later this week. His season with Sweden’s Djurgarden is over and he’d come to North America. The centre won’t play since the Senators don’t want to burn a year on his contract, but assistant GM Tim Murray would like Zibanejad to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton for the rest of the season. “The idea would be to send him there and have him play a few games,” said Murray. “Then, we could call him up at the end of the season. We’re checking the rules to see if he can play there. If he can, we’ll do it.” ... Kyle Turris’ four-point effort shouldn’t come as that big a surprise as he has been playing well lately. This was just an extension of the contribution he’s been making.
THE MORNING SKATE
Isles G John Grahame, signed to a short-term contract to back up Al Montoya after Evgeni Nabokov was hurt, thought his agent was kidding when the offer was made. Grahame wasn’t even playing. He was coaching in the USHL in Sioux City. “I was like, ‘What’s the catch?’’ ” Grahame, 36, who hasn’t played an NHL game since March 14, 2008, told New York Newsday. “It’s a crazy business.” There was talk Grahame would start, but sanity prevailed ... The Isles’ Micheal Haley had his hands full when he dropped the gloves with Chris Neil. Give Neil the victory.
THE LAST WORD
“It’s huge. That’s ultimately what we wanted to do, we (wanted) to get in the playoffs.” — Foligno on returning to the post-season