EDMONTON, ALBERTA - Ryan Jones, the former Wild draft pick and Miami University star who has found a home in Edmonton, is close to returning from a serious left eye injury that he suffered skating at Ridder Arena during the lockout with Minnesota-based NHLers.
On Dec. 31 at the home rink of the Gophers women's hockey team, a puck deflected off the skate of Wild forward Matt Cullen and caught Jones in the corner of the eye while he wasn't looking.
"It was definitely scary right away," Jones said. "The thoughts that went through my head were the worst of the worst. I had surgery six hours later in Bloomington."
Jones, who lives in Orono with his wife, Jamie, said: "The process of getting back has just been tedious and long. So I'm happy to be right on the edge of coming back."
It wasn't the only scare Jones had in December. Driving back from Canada over the North Dakota border, Jones and his wife were pulled out of their car by U.S. Customs agents with guns drawn. He was placed in handcuffs and detained for two hours.
"My first instinct in most things is to joke around and make light of the situation, but I quickly realized they weren't messing around by any means," Jones said. "They were looking for a 6-foot-6 Ryan Jones with the same birthdate, I guess. I'm not 6-6 -- [he is 5 inches shorter] -- but I had to find ways to prove I wasn't this person."
Oilers defenseman Nick Schultz, the Wild's all-time leader in games played (743), is offensive defenseman Justin Schultz's safety valve as a partner. He had the same role in Minnesota with Brent Burns.
Now Nick Schultz has to cover for Justin Schultz, the former Wisconsin Badgers offensive dynamo, whenever he jumps into the play.
Nick Schultz joked that Burns, now a San Jose Sharks blue-liner, gave him heart attacks.
"Burnzie would fly out of position," Schultz said. "If a guy was coming down on you, [Burns] would fly across the ice and try to take your guy with a surprise attack or whatever you want to call it. He doesn't like to sit still very often, which was [his personality, too]."
Schultz had dinner with Wild captain Mikko Koivu, other ex-teammates and Wild trainers Don Fuller and Tony DaCosta on Wednesday night. Koivu jokingly told Schultz to "keep it clean" on the ice Thursday night.
Oilers killer Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who entered Thursday's game with 41 points in 44 games against Edmonton, returned to the Wild's lineup after missing Sunday's game with an illness. Rookie forward Johan Larsson, center Zenon Konopka and defenseman Justin Falk were scratched.
Bouchard entered the game with two goals and one assist in 13 games.
Coach Mike Yeo said more than Bouchard's points, "I want to see him using his speed, attacking. I want to see the little plays in his game, making sure he's playing the right way without the puck, playing well along the walls."
Brian Rolston, who topped 30 goals in each of his three years with the Wild, turned 40 Thursday. He has not officially retired, although he knows that is likely.
His older brother, Ron, coached his first game for the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night in Toronto.
Brian Rolston said he could see coaching in his own future: "I played for Jacques [Lemaire] for nine years [in New Jersey and Minnesota]. I think I have my Ph.D. in how to play defensively."