By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
After 52 games and few Take a Jet to Work appearances, Jim Slater will finally gets back to his own vocation on Thursday night when the Winnipeg Jets take on the Phoenix Coyotes at the MTS Centre.
“I am happy to be back for sure,” said Slater.
Fifty-two games is a long time to sit on the sidelines in the National Hockey League, something Slater has had to endure following a sports hernia that required surgery and a layoff spanning two thirds of the Jets 2013-14 campaign.
Rink rust is a thing, especially after such an extended absence, but Slater says he’s not expecting it to be a major factor when he hops of the bench.
“I’ve been skating a lot, working with the team a lot, but there is nothing like getting into the game action,” said Slater. “It’s going to be different right off the bat but I am a pretty adaptable guy, can get right back in there and I know my job out there and if I can do that well tonight I will be happy.”
Slater said the time off was tough, both in the peaks and the valleys that his team has experienced since he went down in October.
“There are different times, different emotions that you go through throughout the season,” explained Slater. “When we weren’t doing to well you are mad because you can’t get into the lineup to help and when the team has been winning like we have been the last little bit, you’re mad because you can’t be a part of that.”
Slater’s return couldn’t come at a better time given that the Jets find themselves in yet another playoff race and the fact that Slater owns the teams best faceoff percentage among the Jets centremen with over 100 attempts. His team, however, owns the worst faceoff success rate in the league with just 45.7 percent.
“He is obviously big for us in the (faceoff) circle, penalty killing, and he brings a lot of little intangibles that maybe people don’t notice,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “It will be fun to have him back in the lineup.”