No offence to Olli Jokinen but his injury could have been overcome. The injury to Zach Bogosian however is a much different animal and one that makes the Winnipeg Jets push for the playoffs an even greater challenge than it already was.
On Sunday the team learned that Jokinen will miss the next 6-8 weeks with an ankle sprain, while Bogosian is suffering from concussion-like symptoms and is so far said to be out at least a week. Both of the injuries were suffered in Saturday’s shootout loss to the New York Islanders in what was an extremely competitive and physical game. Unfortunately for the Jets the physicality of that game resulted in the loss of the team’s best in-zone defender, made worse by the fact that the hit he received was one of the questionable variety.
The play occurred in the second period when Bogosian and Islanders forward Kyle Okposo were chasing the puck in the Jets end. Both players went in for contact but Okposo got his elbow up and caught Bogosian up high, briefly stunning the blueliner and leaving him dazed as he skated back to the bench. At first glance it appeared to be good, solid contact, but on the replay it was clear that Okposo got his elbow up and made the point of contact with Bogosian’s jaw.
After shaking off what were some obvious cobwebs, Bogosian stayed in the game and for a lack of a better term, played angry for the rest of the afternoon. Cleary unhappy with the hit, he targeted Okposo on several occasions, even challenging him late in the period. Okposo obliged but the linesmen stepped in before anything could develop.
No doubt the Jets will want the league to take a look at the play and hand out punishment, but regardless if Okposo gets a call or not, there can be no changing what happened and no replacing what is now a massive hole on the team’s blueline. Already without the puck-moving and offensive capabilities of Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg will now be without their most valuable defensive-defenceman likely for the final three games of their season, three games that certainly must result in three victories if they hope to be playing on April 30 when the post-season gets underway.
Second on the team behind Dustin Byfuglien in average ice-time with 23:07 minutes per game, the 22-year-old Bogosian has continued to ascend towards becoming an elite defender thanks to his unique combination of strength, power and speed. With his ability to win battles by outmuscling and overpowering the opposition in his own zone, as well as being very capable of skating the puck out of trouble, Bogosian gives the Jets a dimension that no other defencemen on their roster provides, and for that matter a dimension that not many other rearguards in the league can provide.
Trailing Washington for the Southeast division lead by three points, and the New York Rangers for the 8th playoff spot by three points as well, the first of three must-win games this week kicks off tonight in Buffalo against a Sabres team eliminated from playoff contention. That alone gives the Jets a much better chance to overcome the injury to Bogosian, but in the final two games against Washington and Montreal, his absence will be felt.
Like the challenge that lies ahead in making the playoffs, it will be difficult to overcome, but still possible.
A possibility that the Jets and their fans will be clinging to for the next seven days of April.