WINNIPEG -- A five-game losing streak that has imperiled the Winnipeg Jets' Stanley Cup Playoff chances has made for a somber dressing room, but a visit from one of their own perked up the club's collective mood.
Defenseman Zach Redmond skated at the team's practice facility Friday morning 43 days after a scary collision with teammate Antti Miettinen prior to a road game against the Carolina Hurricanes. On Feb. 21, Miettinen's skate lacerated the femoral artery in Redmond's right thigh and severely damaged muscle and nerves. The injury was so severe it cast severe doubts whether the 24-year-old rookie would play again, let alone get back on the ice.
Zack Redmond: Photo: Winnipeg Jets
(Click image to enlarge)
After returning to the ice Friday, Redmond said he is on track to recover and resume playing after sustaining a life-threatening injury eight games into his NHL career. Redmond had been rehabilitating his injury at home in Michigan before returning to Winnipeg, where he will continue the process, train and skate. At the moment, the defenseman trains three days a week to rebuild strength in his leg and works on his upper body twice a week.
"The reason for all of the question marks with recovery is because it never happens," Redmond said. "Right away, they were saying 50/50 chance that I would ever play again. A week later, it was a year[-long] recovery.
"My physical therapist said that, as far as healing goes, I'm better off with this injury than an [anterior cruciate ligament] injury. They stitched the artery right away, and it's not even a concern anymore. It's as good as it will ever be. It's just a matter of getting stronger, getting my muscles back in shape."
Defenseman Mark Stuart, who partnered with Redmond on the club's third defensive pairing, welcomed Redmond's return to Winnipeg.
"We're just happy to have him around," Stuart said. "It has been a tough go of late. It's never any fun when you're not winning. To see him today, it definitely gives our room a boost."
The Jets declined to assign a specific timeline to Redmond's return to game play, but the Michigan product's quick progress has encouraged the club.
"I would definitely say he is ahead of schedule from where we thought he was going to be with that kind of injury, which is really encouraging," athletic trainer Rob Milette said. "When you're dealing with really healthy people, that kind of stuff just works out, I guess. He has been doing really well. There are [recovery] goals that we have in mind with the medical staff and the doctors, and that's what we're going to strive for before he plays."
While showing off a gruesome scar to teammates and media, Redmond provided his recollection of the day he sustained the injury.
"It happened so quickly," Redmond said. "I honestly didn't even know what was going on. I remember the whole thing. I think it might have scared other people that were watching, because I couldn't really see everything that was going on. There were so many people around.
"I didn't actually feel the cut. I don't know if I was in shock or what. The cut itself didn't hurt. Seeing the blood, that initial shock was kind of like, 'Whoa.'"
Immediately after Redmond began bleeding on the ice, teammate Anthony Peluso reacted to the injury, racing to apply pressure to a wound that quickly left a pool of blood at PNC Arena in Raleigh. Coaches Charlie Huddy and Perry Pearn also assisted.
Redmond never lost consciousness and estimates that approximately 15 people raced to help him while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance to transport him to a local hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. The Jets later chartered a flight for Redmond's family, who arrived to spend time bedside as he began the recovery process.
"I'm just really fortunate for the coaches and players and everybody that jumped in," Redmond said. "I'm convinced that it saved my life. I couldn't be more lucky."
Peluso, who is nursing a hand injury, was able to spend time with Redmond in Winnipeg during the Jets' recent three-game road trip.
Upon his arrival back in Winnipeg, Redmond made a point to thank Peluso for his help.
"I just kind of told him, 'I don't know what you did, but thanks for everything,'" Redmond said. "He's a great guy and he's not going to take credit for much, I'm sure. I thanked everybody right away."
With no recovery timetable in place, Redmond continues to direct his attention toward the lengthy rehabilitation process that lay ahead. For the time being, he's just enjoying being on the ice.
"It's awesome. It felt great to get out there again," Redmond said. "I honestly feel fortunate. I feel [more] lucky to be here than unlucky to be hurt. I'm just kind of thankful for what happened. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure [playing for the Jets again] happens."