At the end of Tuesday’s practice, Grant Mismash skated to the neutral zone with UND assistant coach Matt Shaw and began conditioning drills.
He skated from blue line to blue line, weaved between pucks and worked toward getting back into game shape.
Mismash hasn’t played since Jan. 25, when he suffered a knee injury on a knee-to-knee collision with St. Cloud State defenseman Jimmy Schuldt. UND coach Brad Berry feared that the Fighting Hawks may be without the second-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators for the rest of the season.
But that might not be the case.
Mismash is working toward a return. He made it through full practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. He has begun participating in contact drills, too.
Exactly when he’ll be ready to go back into a game is still up in the air. But even if he can’t go this weekend for the regular-season series finale against Omaha (7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Ralph Engelstad Arena), there’s a chance he could come back for the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs next weekend.
“He’s been skating the whole week here,” Berry said. “He’s gradually coming into contact drills. The situation becomes that he’s been out for six weeks. That’s a long time. You’ve got to make sure you’re setting him up for success -- not only conditioning-wise, but also health-wise -- as far as making sure he’s ready to go. He’s skating with us, but we’ll make that evaluation in the next day or so as to whether he’ll be available to play this weekend.”
Mismash, who also suffered a different injury in early January, had five goals and nine points in 21 games this season for No. 19 UND.
His presence would be welcome for a team that has often times struggled to generate offensive production, despite ranking No. 2 nationally in puck possession metrics Corsi and Fenwick.
His presence also would be welcome on the power play, where UND is stuck at a 15 percent conversion rate. Mismash is able to play a number of different roles on the power play, both on the point or in the slot.
Jones in; Scheel, Janatuinen out
Berry said he expects UND senior center Nick Jones to play this weekend’s series against Omaha after missing the last four games with a lower-body injury.
Jones traveled to Colorado Springs last week, but was unable to play in either game.
"I feel good," said Jones, whose family is coming to Grand Forks for the series. "I'm excited for Friday night."
Jones has five goals and 10 points this season, despite missing 11 games with two separate injuries.
"Up until last year, I had never been injured in my life," Jones said. "It's different. This year, it's been even more frustrating than it was last year. But it comes with playing the sport. It's exciting to be healthy and be able to get out there and play. It makes you appreciate the game more."
Another senior, forward Joel Janatuinen, will remain out of the lineup. It is starting to become a longshot for Janatuinen to return to the lineup this season.
The team has not disclosed Janatuinen’s ailment, but it has kept him out of every game since Jan. 5, and has limited him to only a few practices since then.
Janatuinen has played 14 games this season and just one since Thanksgiving weekend. He has one goal and three points.
UND also will play this weekend without starting goalie Adam Scheel, who suffered a knee injury three weeks ago at Western Michigan. Scheel has not yet returned to practice. That means sophomore Peter Thome will start in his spot. Thome is 2-2 with a .928 save percentage and a 1.28 goals-against average since Scheel's injury.
Last weekend, freshman Harrison Feeney served as Thome’s backup in Colorado Springs.