Sam Gagner optimistic he’ll be back in Edmonton Oilers lineup in a month
Injured centre says he’s pushing doctors to OK his return to NHL action from broken jaw in four to five weeks instead of forecast six to eight
EDMONTON - Edmonton Oilers centre Sam Gagner won’t be eating solid food any time soon with one plate and six screws holding his broken jaw together, but he’s able to talk.
“I only lost four teeth ... they were able to save some,” Gagner said 10 days after taking a stick in the mouth from Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian. The National Hockey League slapped Kassian with a five-game suspension as a result.
Gagner needed his jaw wired shut for just three days following surgery to make sure it set properly, so his food won’t be digested through a straw, but he has lost five pounds — down to 195 pounds — since the pre-season injury.
Gagner said Tuesday he hopes to be back in the lineup much sooner than the six to eight weeks doctors forecast for the 24-year-old’s recovery.
“I’m trying to push the doctors to see if I can be back in four or five weeks,” Gagner said. “The jaw was shattered and displaced, and when I sent the picture (via Twitter) that’s why it looked so bad, but my bite feels fine now.
“I was on painkillers when I sent it out. I just wanted everyone to know I was feeling all right, no matter what was going on with my face.”
Gagner is already working out. By the end of the week, he might be skating then ready for practise soon after.
As the weeks add up, he might feel like a caged animal. Then again, he’ll be playing with some sort of cage over his face when he gets to play a game — to guard against an errant stick or a wild elbow — like Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby did following his late-season return last campaign from the broken jaw he suffered after a deflected puck found his face.
“They said it takes about three months for the bone to get sticky and heal, but if it gets hit again, even with a plate, it can re-break,” Gagner said.
Kassian went to hit Gagner, missed and smacked the Oilers in the kisser.
“I thought it was a pretty reckless play,” Gagner said. “I don’t think he was trying to hit me in the face, but you have to be aware of your stick.”
Taking a stick in the mouth “actually didn’t feel as bad at the time as it could have,” Gagner said, but “there was some nerve damage at the beginning, so some of the nerve receptors were blocked off.”
“Yeah, it hurt. It was tough going through surgery, but I’m better now,” he said.
“It was a fragmented break (left of his jawline) and I was told that’s better because it’s criss-crossing and more blood gets to the area and it helps to heal better.”
ON THE BENCHOilers centre Marc Arcobello has changed his camp number from 62 to 26 ... Oilers defenceman Denis Grebeshkov (groin) skated before practice. He’s on the 22-man roster but is obviously still hurt ... No official word on how bad Steve MacIntyre (knee) is hurt, but he might need surgery ... New Oilers tough guy Luke Gazdic, whose mother managed to fly in from Ontario for her boy’s first NHL game (his dad is out of the country on business), says he’s closer to 240 pounds than the 228 he’s listed at in some publications.
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