WINNIPEG - Fans at Bell MTS Iceplex saw the usual blue and red practice jerseys as 12 Winnipeg Jets players took to the ice for practice today. But it's what they didn't see that was important.
The yellow non-contact jersey was nowhere to be seen, as Adam Lowry practiced in a regular sweater for the first time since suffering his upper-body injury on Oct. 14.
At least, that was the first game he missed. The 24-year-old had been dealing with the injury for a few days leading up to that.
"It kind of happened almost on the practice day (in Vancouver). I was able to get through the game in Vancouver, but it just didn't settle down like we thought it would, and it just lingered," said Lowry. "It wasn't a concussion, so you guys can know that. It was just one of those things that it didn't progress as quickly as we hoped. It kind of lingered on. Initially we thought it was only going to be a couple days, and here we're at seven games, going on eight tomorrow."
Video: PRACTICE | Adam Lowry
Lowry was a full participant in the 45-minute skate, and then did some battle drills and conditioning skating to round out his on-ice workday.
"It was nice to finally get some contact again, and get battling. I'm starting to feel good. I feel like I'm getting close. I'm just excited," said Lowry. "It's nice that the team is playing well, it makes sitting out a little bit easier, and hopefully they're going to continue that, and I'll be able to jump in and we'll be able to keep going from where we're at right now."
As far as a return to action, both Lowry and head coach Paul Maurice are hopeful for Saturday's game against Montreal, but couldn't set a date in stone. It all depends on how Lowry's body responds following full-contact practices.
"He skated well for the past couple days. He'll get through a couple days of banging here," said Maurice. "He's definitely going in the right direction now."
But before the Jets can look ahead to Saturday, they first have to focus on Thursday's opponent, the Dallas Stars, who roll into town with a 7-5-0 record.
"I thought their season last year almost mirrored ours. It's similar again. They've added four important pieces, and we did too. Tyler Myers was one of them," said Maurice. "They're trying to play a better defensive hockey game, and I think they're dialled into that. They've got some good high-end skill and speed up front, some good size, and some real good goaltending.
"There's always potential for a real exciting game. I think probably both teams are hopeful it can be exciting and played well at the same time, which would be a change from last year."
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
The Jets have points in eight of their last nine games, going 6-1-2 in that span. While Lowry was part of the first two match-ups (wins over Edmonton and Vancouver), he's liked what he's seen from his teammates in the other seven.
"The biggest thing you notice from up top is just how well we're defending right now," said Lowry. "We're giving up some shots, but a lot of them are from the outside. If they're getting some good chances, we're getting sticks on their sticks, or sticks on pucks. You're causing them to miss the net, and when they do get those chances, our goalies have been there."
Mathieu Perreault also continues to progress from a lower-body injury that has kept him out of the line-up for six games. The 29-year-old forward skated on his own today for the first time since his injury on Oct. 17.
"He'll stay on his own probably until after Montreal, maybe even after Dallas," said Maurice. "We'll put him back on the ice on that road trip (next week)."
Maurice also confirmed that Connor Hellebuyck, who made 28 saves on 29 shots in the win over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night, will get the start against the Stars tomorrow.
Hellebuyck is 6-0-1 with a 1.91 goals against average so far this season.