Justin Schultz returned to practice on Monday for the first time since being hit by a wrist shot from Islanders’ forward Kieffer Bellows. The puck struck the Capitals’ defenseman in the side of the jaw, forcing him to leave the game in the third period. Schultz was classified by the team as out “day-to-day”, but Peter Laviolette admitted, “there was some damage done.”
Monday, 11 days after Schultz was injured, we learned just how badly the puck devastated Schultz’s mouth.
“I feel good,” he said. “Body’s fine. Face is feeling fine. Obviously, teeth are a bit damaged and all that. I think it’s healing up well and I’m feeling good.
“Obviously a bunch of teeth are in pretty rough shape,” he added. “Lost a couple. A couple of small fractures there. Nothing too serious. It could have been a lot more serious which I’m thankful for.”
During an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on February 1, Laviolette elaborated just how fortunate the free agent acquisition was.
“I saw him that night when he was getting worked on. That was tough,” Laviolette said. “He said he was all right. He was fine. He had to get some work done.
“I saw him [two days later] for the first time since it actually happened and surprisingly I thought he looked good,” Laviolette said. “He could have looked worse. It could have been completely swelled up and a bloody mess. Our docs did a tremendous job of taking care of him and putting him back together.”
During Schultz’s interview, he was clearly missing one front bottom tooth and had swelling in his bottom lip and alveolar bone/jaw.
The injury occurred at a terrible time. Schultz was the Capitals’ best defenseman, posting six points in three games. That included a last-minute game-winning goal against the New York Islanders on January 26.
Schultz’s shot attempts percentage and goals finished percentage was tops among all Capitals’ defenders.
Certainly didn’t anticipate Justin Schultz being the Capitals’ best defenseman this season… pic.twitter.com/ubt3hSBMwP
— Danny (@shireyirving) February 3, 2021
He also had the fourth-best GAR (goals above replacement) number among all defensemen in the NHL.
Former defensive pairing mates at UMass, Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro, are both top 20 in GAR amongst defensemen. pic.twitter.com/y28MyPx7kH
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) February 3, 2021
“I will say this without coaching him before, I thought he was just really solid for us,” Laviolette said. “A guy that was playing really well for us, especially the last three or four games. The way he jumps into the play. The way he looks to add offense and his defense was excellent too. His numbers on both ends of the ice were really good. He was playing terrific for us.”
Schultz participated in practice while wearing a full bubble shield around his face. “It was okay,” Schultz said while admitting he wore a cage in college. “It takes a little time adjusting to.”
As for when he’ll play next, Schultz was unsure. He skated on the extra pairing with Jonas Siegenthaler and said his status remained “day-to-day.”
“Tomorrow’s definitely in the air,” Schultz said. “Hopefully when I come back, I can pick up where I left off and help the team in whatever way I can.”
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