Over a month ago (October 17th) the Jets saw Gabriel Vilardi go down in the 1st period of the game against his former Kings club. The next day head coach Rick Bowness indicated that it was a sprained MCL and that they expected the recovery to be 4-6 weeks.
At the start of November Vilardi was on the road with the Jets but associate coach Scott Arniel indicated he wouldn’t be skating with the team during that trip. A week later (November 9th) we were told that Vilardi had resumed skating.
Last Monday associate coach Scott Arniel provided a health update which indicated the plan was to get Vilardi into practice with the guys when they got to Tampa.
Which brings us to today’s practice in Winnipeg as Vilardi was with the entire club at hockey for all centre. Once skate concluded Scott Arniel was asked whether Vilardi might suit up for a game later on this road trip?
“There’s a good chance he might. Biggest thing is that was his first real, I know he’s been out on the ice doing some shooting/conditioning stuff here, but that was his first one with all the guys, getting in line rushes, being in a situation where he may have to shift his weight, maybe happen to run into somebody. He’ll do a little bit more of that as this weeks goes on and then we’ll see how he is. We’ll just take it day by day. First he has to feel comfortable with his knee and his situation and the second thing is his conditioning. That’s a big one. We don’t want to put him out there where if he’s not ready to go close to 100% something happens because he’s not in proper shape.”
Of course when he does come back where does he go with the top three lines seemingly performing during this stretch?
“I’ve been trying not to think about it too much” replied Arniel with a smirk.
“We’ll just let it play itself out. When we look at things where we are when that game comes about when he’s going to be back in the lineup, we’ll just kinda sit back and look and figure out what that spot is.”
Might there be a temptation to put Vilardi back with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor given their early season success?
“He’s an elite six player. He’s a top end player that had a breakout year last year. I know he has a skillset that he needs to play with top people. Whether that’s with those guys or wherever it might be, we’ll just kinda let things play out this week and kinda go from there. Whether he’s with those guys or somebody else he’s going to make that line better. He has a skillset that’s different from some of those guys. He’s a big power forward with really good hands and plays a lot of the game around the net front. He’ll be a really good addition to us.”
Might they try Vilardi at centre?
“We’ll look at them all. Maybe not his first game back throwing him in the middle might not be the best thing but he’s always been an option for us through the middle of the ice. That’s something he’s done over his career so whether that happens right away or whether we don’t do it at all we’ll just kinda play that along.”
Jets face Tampa on Wednesday (Nov 22nd), Florida on Friday (Nov 24th) and then Nashville on Sunday (Nov 26th). Seems most likely they are targeting potentially that game against the Predators.
If he cannot play this week then they likely try for the game against the Stars back in Winnipeg on on Tuesday (Nov 28th).