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Injured stars get new life

Seth Jones stood on his surgically repaired right ankle as his Blue Jackets teammates practiced and played without him. That took its toll.

“It gets mentally draining,” Jones said.

Pittsburgh All-Star Jake Guentzel knows the feeling.

Like Jones, he was injured late in the NHL season and would have missed part or all of the playoffs had they started in April. Instead, the four-month pandemic shutdown has given him a second chance to heal up in time for the rescheduled battle for the Stanley Cup.

Being ready for Game 1 under normal circumstances — if Columbus held on to make the playoffs without him — would have been a struggle for Jones. That was the eight-week mark since surgery, with a 8-10 week recovery timeline.

“I really didn’t start feeling back to myself on the ice until about week 13 to 15,” Jones said. “The extra time obviously did pretty good for me.”

The 25-year-old called the situation “a little bit of a blessing in disguise.” Captain Nick Foligno knows having Jones is huge for the Blue Jackets against the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs in the best-of-five qualifying round.

“It would’ve been a lot different had we been playing the playoffs with him on probably one leg,” Foligno said. “To know that he’s feeling good and excited about his opportunity to be able to play at full health I think is a huge boost for our club and something that we don’t want to waste.”

Having Guentzel back is a boost for the Penguins, who open their series against the Montreal Canadiens when the playoffs begin Saturday. The 25-year-old thought his season was over after undergoing right shoulder surgery in late December that carried a 4-6 month recovery time.

Seven months later, he’s good to go.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, so to get this opportunity, I’m pretty happy about it — to get a chance to battle with these guys and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Guentzel said. “From my end, I’m pretty happy that I get this chance to do this.”

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