The Winnipeg Jets will have their top scorer, Evander Kane, back in the lineup tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but more questions have surfaced about the injury that has kept Kane out.
Kane has missed seven games because of a concussion. But on Tuesday he revealed that he likely suffered the injury as far back as Dec. 20 when he was hit during a game against the New York Islanders. He added that he became more certain after his head hit the ice in a game against Buffalo on Jan. 19. That means he played 14 games with what may well have been a concussion.
“I think it happened in the Islander game a few months ago,” Kane said Tuesday. “I kind of got my bell rung and it didn’t affect me too much.”
He added that “I don’t think it was affecting my play I think it was a long time ago and I got over it quickly. But I just wasn’t feeling the same as I felt most of the year. So I wanted to step back and rest up and get a little bit better.”
Kane leads the Jets with 18 goals this season and 13 assists. But he hasn’t scored since Dec. 29, raising questions that he may well have been affected by the concussion.
“I feel good. I feel well rested,” he said Tuesday. “I feel back to my old self.”
As for his lack of scoring, Kane expressed frustration. “Any time you go through a stretch like that it’s never fun...I should be able to refresh and regroup and I’m really excited about tonight. It feels like a fresh start.”
Coach Claude Noel said he will likely keep a close watch on Kane’s play and limit his time on the ice. But he said Kane should help bring some badly needed goal scoring for Winnipeg.
“We’ve certainly known that drought for the last little while so he’ll be a welcome addition for us,” Noel said. “He struggled a little before, Sometimes when you are out it enables you to reflect and brings some enthusiasm to the game.”
Noel said Kane’s lack of scoring could be related to the hit on Dec. 20 even if he didn’t believe he had a concussion at the time.
“It could be part of it,” he said. “I don’t know. I could be.”
The Jets face a tough task against the Leafs. Winnipeg has lost two straight and hasn’t been able score more than one goal a game for the past six games. Toronto has been on a roll, winning five out of their last six games including a 6-3 victory over Edmonton on Monday.
Toronto “is a team that is going to force us to skate and to move,” Noel said. “And I’m looking forward to that. It should be a fun game. I’m hoping it’s a fun night.”