WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — One minute Dmitry Kulikov was feeling fine, the next moment he wasn’t.
And now the Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman will undergo back surgery and miss at least eight weeks.
Jets coach Paul Maurice said it was the same injury Kulikov suffered last season while with the Buffalo Sabres.
Kulikov was hurt while taking a shot during Winnipeg’s 3-2 victory over New Jersey on March 8. After the inflammation went down, it was decided the nine-year veteran’s best option was to fix the problem through surgery.
“It’s tough for him,” Maurice said. “Maybe it helped that it just happened so he didn’t have to deal with it for three weeks and agonize whether he should be playing or not.
“He felt good. He took a shot and then all of a sudden he didn’t feel good. Very difficult for him in that he’s been through it (before).”
Winnipeg picked up the unrestricted free agent last July 1, signing the Russian to a three-year contract. He’d played seven seasons with Florida, but only 47 games with Buffalo after hurting his back when he was hit into an open door during a preseason game.
Kulikov has been a steady force with the Jets, totaling three goals and eight assists in 62 games.
Maurice said an update on the 27-year-old will come in eight weeks during the NHL playoffs.
“Hopefully, we’re still playing hockey when he’s ready to play,” Maurice said.
The injury-plagued Jets, who began the day second in the Central Division, did have something good to report on a trio of players.
Defenseman Toby Enstrom and center Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry could all return when Winnipeg hosts Dallas on Sunday. All three were full participants in practice Saturday and it’s a matter of seeing how they feel Sunday morning, Maurice said.
Scheifele took a blindside hit from defenseman Tyler Myers during a 5-on-5 drill.
“(Myers) was doing a great job at making sure I’m feeling good,” Scheifele said with a wry smile.
Scheifele has missed five straight games after a “fluky collision” with teammate Blake Wheeler in a March 6 game against the New York Rangers. He confirmed it wasn’t the same upper-body injury that kept him out for 16 games earlier this season.
Lowry has missed 19 games with an upper-body injury, while Enstrom has been out four games after blocking a shot in practice.