WINNIPEG â€” The Jets have been dealt another blow after their loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
Veteran defenceman Toby Enstrom will be out indefinitely with a concussion suffered in the 7-4 defeat, Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said after Friday’s practice.
Enstrom took a crushing illegal check from behind into the boards by Pittsburgh forward Tom Sestito in the first period. Sestito was given a major penalty and game misconduct, while Enstrom went to hospital to check for facial fractures.
The NHL followed up on Thursday by handing the 29-year-old Sestito a four-game suspension.
“There’s no equitable way to sort this out because you can’t measure what we lose,” Maurice said.
“The players suspended, they all have to be treated (the same) regardless of value to the game, so it is what it is.”
The 10-year veteran didn’t have any facial fractures, he added.
The six-foot-five, 228-pound Sestito had been called up Wednesday morning from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League to play in only his ninth game this season.
Known more for his fists than his finesse, Sestito logged 1:02 of ice time and had 20 minutes of penalties before being ejected after hitting the five-foot-10, 180-pound Enstrom.
“I don’t really know what he was doing out there in the first place,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said of Sestito. “But I guess they made their point and we lose a guy for it.
“I think (the NHL) did a good job of coming down on him ’cause that was a pretty bad hit.”
Forward Mathieu Perreault also questioned the Penguins’ call-up of Sestito.
“Not too sure what’s his role on this team, really,” Perreault said. “They call him up for one game, so it’s not like he has a role.
“He comes out, maybe get a fight and do something stupid, I would say, hit a guy from behind. So, yeah, I don’t think there’s any room in this league for this kind of play anymore.”
Enstrom’s absence comes at a time when the Jets (30-32-6) have 14 games left and are trying to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
They host the Calgary Flames on Saturday, a club riding an eight-game win streak. The Jets have lost two straight.
“Any time you lose a guy on your blue line it’s difficult to replace just ’cause you only have six of them,” Wheeler said.
“(Enstrom is) one guy who does a great job breaking the puck out. He’s a nightmare for forecheckers. He can just seem to slide by guys and move the puck into those big holes so he’s going to be missed.”
Veteran Mark Stuart is expected to replace Enstrom.
Rookie defenceman Josh Morrisey and forward Chris Thornburn didn’t practise Friday. Maurice said Morrissey should be ready to face Calgary, but Thorburn is questionable.
Connor Hellebuyck will make his 13th straight start in net after he let in five goals on 15 shots against Pittsburgh and was replaced by Michael Hutchinson.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press