Sam Gagner played his first game without a face guard this season on Monday against the Jets and the results were very good. He had a goal in 18:11 of icetime and a 61.1% faceoff efficiency.
“I think I can see a little better, which helps. I’m more aware of what’s happening around me and that definitely helps," said Gagner of being able to go without the face guard. "I’m trying not to think about it. Last game I just wanted to go out and play hard and try to get a few bangs in early and forget about it. Once that happened I was able to play my game and it helped.”
Gagner played on a line with Jordan Eberle and Jesse Joensuu. The trio will reunite this evening in Calgary.
“I felt more free, obviously. I felt back to normal. I felt like our line was playing really well last game and we’ve got another big step to take tonight.”
Coach Eakins said that he felt that Gagner came back too soon from his broken jaw in an effort to help the club.
“We talked about a perfect negative storm with our team early in the season and I think it was the same thing for Sam. You miss part of training camp — that is never, ever good for a player. I’ve never seen one player who missed any part of camp have a good start to the season,” Eakins began.
“I think suffering an injury like that is much different than taking it in the shoulder or the knee. It’s a part of your head that’s a delicate spot and that has to weigh on your mind. I think Sam probably came back too early from his injury, for the good of the team, and his play suffered early.
“Now, he’s obviously comfortable. It was his decision to take it off after conversing with our doctors. Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe not, but I thought his last game was night and day compared to early on when he came back.”