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DENVER — Brandon Tanev is the type of hockey player who appears to be built for the playoffs. But the Winnipeg Jets could be looking at starting the post-season without one of their biggest energy sources.
Tanev was slashed on the hand by Minnesota’s Eric Staal in the first period of Tuesday night’s game against the Wild and did not return. That alone was a troubling sign, given the amount of bodily abuse Tanev has suffered in the past only to get right back up and not miss a shift. No penalty was called on the play, and no supplemental discipline came down from the NHL.
Tanev wasn’t in the lineup Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche, the first of an unknown number of absences on the horizon. He will also miss Saturday night’s final regular-season game in Arizona and has flown back to Winnipeg, where further medical evaluation and treatment will occur.
“We’ll get an assessment in the early part of next week as to the direction we’re going to go,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate at Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. No specific details were given, but his injury is believed to involve at least one of his fingers.
When asked if that meant either getting surgery of finding a way to play through the injury, Maurice wouldn’t bite.
“That’s an ‘I’m not a doctor, so we’re going to let a doctor look at it and say what is the best way to deal with it,’” he said. However, Maurice wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Tanev could somehow be ready in time for the start of the playoffs later next week.
Tanev’s absence would be a big loss on many fronts. He has a motor that never quits, has set a new single-season franchise record for hits, is an effective checker and has chipped in with a career-high 14 goals, along with 15 assists, in 80 games. He had four goals and two assists in the playoffs last season when the Jets went three rounds deep.
“He’s another unique player in our lineup, a big hitter with lots of speed. He kills penalties for us, so it’s a loss, for sure. But we’ll bring in a player who has a defensive skill set and go with it,” Maurice said.
That player is Par Lindholm, who took Tanev’s spot Thursday. It was just the third game the 27-year-old from Sweden has played with the Jets since being acquired at the trade deadline in late February from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nic Petan.
“I liked his games. Because we had some new people come in he didn’t get back in there, but this will be good for him to get back into these two games. They will be really high-energy, high-emotion games. Listen, this guy works so hard in practice and he’s one of these great preparers, so he’s going to be fine and ready to go,” Maurice said.
Lindholm was excited about suiting up for the first time since March 5. He was on a line with Adam Lowry and Jack Roslovic.
“It’s been tough practices. I think my body’s more in shape now than when I came here, so that’s good. I always try to look at the positive stuff. Of course I want to play, but I’ve been working on stuff and feel good now,” he said.
Lindholm had one goal and 11 assists in 61 games with Toronto, but was held off the scoresheet in his two games with the Jets, where he took the place of a suspended Lowry. Finding a path back into the lineup has proven to be difficult.
“The Jets have really good forwards, so it’s no surprise. Of course I want to play. But I don’t know, in this league, it’s the best league in the world, you’ve got to earn your spot. I didn’t think I did that when I got to play those two games,” Lindholm said.
“I’m just going to play my game. I think I’m a good defensive player, too. I think that’s my strength as a hockey player. Plus, I want to contribute in both ends and play good hockey with whoever I’m playing with.”
Lindholm also acknowledged he had some big skates to fill after watching Tanev on a nightly basis.
“He sacrifices his body all the time. It’s pretty impressive to see. It’s good to have those kind of players on the team. I’m sure other people follow him too,” Lindholm said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.