Jets captain Blake Wheeler out weeks with injury; Neal Pionk set to return

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler will be sidelined multiple weeks with a lower-body injury, coach Paul Maurice confirmed Monday.

This is weeks not days,” he said. “Then in probably three or four days all the swelling will come down we’ll have a better idea of how long it’s going to be, but it’s going to be weeks.”

Wheeler out for Jets

The 35-year-old forward was hurt in the third period of Friday night’s 4-3 shootout loss at Vancouver. He clutched his right leg after a collision with teammate Nathan Beaulieu and Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin.

“To fill in his boots, it’s going to take the whole team to contribute, not just on the ice but off the ice too,” forward Pierre-Luc Dubois said today.

blake wheeler
Blake Wheeler (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wheeler scored his first goal of the season in the first period of that game and added two assists, hiking his season total to 17 points in 22 games.

Maurice said Wheeler will undergo more tests before the team determines a timeline for his return.

Wheeler has 824 points (280 goals, 544 assists) and 673 penalty minutes in 1,003 career games with the Boston Bruins (2008-11), Atlanta Thrashers (2011) and Jets.

Neal Pionk set to return

Maurice also announced today that defenseman Neal Pionk will return to the team.

In a chippy game against the Maple Leafs, where Pionk received a two-game suspension for a knee-to-knee hit on defenseman Rasmus Sandin, he himself was injured.

Less than two minutes after that hit, Pionk, who had lost his stick, dove to the ice to make a play for the puck. Spezza skated over and lowered his left knee to make forceful contact with the side of Pionk’s head.

Jets coach Paul Maurice reported that Pionk had entered concussion protocol and would miss at least three games as a result.

Spezza received a six game suspension on that play.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report