The Blue Jackets have been hammered with injuries during the last two weeks, but may get some welcomed good news on the injury front.
Boone Jenner skated with a glove on his injured hand and handled pucks for the third straight practice. There’s still no defined date for Jenner’s return, but he knows he is getting closer.
“It’s hard to put a number on that day, that’s the thing," Jenner told BlueJackets.com. "You just try to see when you’re ready to go. And if today’s the day then you take it from there.
“I’m just trying to work (the hand) back, the muscles in my wrist. I hadn’t shot or handled a puck in a month,” said Jenner. “It’s going to be a little different, so I’m trying to play those muscles up again and start using them. It just comes back naturally, too. I’ve been playing hockey for a long time.”
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For Jenner, he’ll need more than just a strong wrist shot to be ready to return. The next step will be contact, work in the corners, the kind of physical duress that is such a big part of his game and Todd Richards’ aggressive forechecking system.
“During practice I’ll get into more and more of that," Jenner said. "I need to get back into the battling and pushing off the wall and other guys. It’s a big part of the game and that needs to come back, too.”
For the time being, Jenner stays off to the side, improving his conditioning and once again getting acclimated to the feel of a puck on his stick. Jenner showed he could be an impact player with the puck during last year’s postseason with five points in six games. He carried that offensive touch into his only preseason game, when he netted a goal and an assist against St Louis.
That was the first and only game of the experiment moving Jenner to center, where he played during juniors before being slotted primarily as a winger during his rookie season. With the Jackets taking heavy injuries up front and with Artem Anisimov’s status still in question, Jenner’s return would be a boost to the lineup.
As the first Jacket to go down injured this season (aside from Nathan Horton’s back ailment), Jenner has had a unique perspective as the injured reserve list swelled around him.
“It’s tough to see," Jenner said. "Things happen and I guess they’re all happening at the same time for us right now. Obviously we’ve got more guys out than we’d like. Watching that is tough and it makes you want to come back that much quicker for everyone. You see everyone batting and it’s tough to watch.”
It’s even tougher to watch for Jenner when he knows just how close he is to game shape. Still, he’s happy to finally be back on the ice with teammates and to once again feel like he’s in the fold.
“Just being around the guys and on the ice for practice is great," he said. "I feel that much more combined with them. When you’re not playing, it’s kind of tough. You’re on a different schedule on game days. Hopefully things are coming back and it’s good to be practicing and in the room every day.”