Minnesota Wild defenceman Ryan Suter, right, checks Edmonton Oilers right-winger Ryan Jones off the puck during the second period of an NHL game in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.
Photograph by: Ann Heisenfelt, AP
It may be more than a mere coincidence that right around the time that Ryan Jones added some punch to his game, his baby boy entered his world. And it may be more than just sleep depravation.
Whatever the reason, the winger has had three fights in the Edmonton Oilers last four games, including a first period bout with Kevin Bieksa in Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Before that, there was a scrap with the Wild’s Stephane Veilleux in Minnesota which came two days after he had fought the Dallas Stars Brenden Dillon. Throw in an Oct. 27 fight with Kyle Clifford of the Los Angeles Kings and Jones now has four on the season. His season high was two in 2010-2011.
“The offence hasn’t been coming the way I had hoped it would this year. I’m just trying to do something to get that kick-started ... and I was looking for a way to get the boys some jump,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. The Oilers, with another five-game losing streak in tow, host the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday. Through 52 games, they have now complied four five-game losing streaks. Only twice this season have they won two consecutive games.
Come Friday, Jones could again find himself on a line with Sam Gagner and David Perron, an elevated role he took on in the recent absence of Ales Hemsky (foot/ankle) and Nail Yakupov (concussion).
“If I have to get into another fight here or there to keep myself around, then that’s what it is,” continued Jones, whose son Lincoln Thomas was born on Jan. 6. As children do, he has changed life as Ryan and wife knew it.
“When he arrived I thought, ‘I want to play hard for multiple reasons.’ One, so that I can make him proud when people talk about what I was like as a player and two, so that I can give him the things he wants. There’s so many ways you can do that but for me, hockey has been that way, so I want to continue with that.”
That’s all the more notable given that Jones hasn’t had the best of seasons. He returned this fall with a one-year contract then found himself in the American Hockey League when the regular season opened. He has been a healthy scratch, and he has two goals and three assists to show for 32 games work.
Last season, too, was underwhelming albeit affected by an eye injury that kept him out for the start of the lockout shortened campaign.
“Hockey has been everything to me for 25 years now,” said Jones. “You go home and consume yourself with all the mistakes that you made and everything you could have done differently in the game. Then you have a child, and it really does put it into perspective how big hockey is in your life. I don’t mean to disrespect fans or anyone else but this is a game and now I’m responsible for raising a child. That is so much more important.”
Jones went on to say he hasn’t lost his passion for the game but he also understands it’s a business, which is why he knows he may be on the move before next season. Not only is he set to become an unrestricted free agent, the club will be looking to sell off pieces before the March 5 trade deadline.
“There hasn’t been a single trade deadline, other than the one that brought me here, where I haven’t been on the block. You learn how to deal with it. I think I’m at the point in my career where you accept it if it happens.
“I would understand why they would. The first year I was here, I was playing so well that it would have been a little bit of a kick to the stomach so to say but it’s business. We’ll see.”
Jones couldn’t fight last year because of the injury and admits now that there was still some uncertainty this season but he’s since gained the necessary confidence to let the fists fly.
He does still wear a visor, and says he always will after getting struck by a puck in the eye.
“I don’t know if this is going to be a growing trend,” said head coach Dallas Eakins of the winger’s feistiness, “but I think he’s come a long way from training camp. I do like the way that’s playing (both five-on-five and on the penalty kill).”
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