March 25, 2014

Adam Jones Returns for Stretch Run with Mammoth

by Neil Stevens | | Twitter

After a lengthy period on the shelf with a separated shoulder, Adam Jones returns for Colorado this weekend.

Adam Jones is back.

Jones, sidelined since Feb. 1, will pull on his No. 16 and be on the floor when the Colorado Mammoth play the visiting Philadelphia Wings in Denver on Saturday night.

''It's huge,'' Jones replied when asked for his evaluation of the importance of the game in which he'll make his return. ''We play (undefeated) Edmonton twice right after Philly so it's important to get a win this weekend.''

Colorado, 5-8, goes into the season's stretch drive in third place in the NLL West. Three of the four teams in the division will make the playoffs and fourth-place Vancouver, 3-9, will do everything it can to catch Colorado so the Mammoth need to shed that challenge by getting a win or two.

Enter Jones, who had a league-best 25 goals in eight games when he suffered a separated shoulder eight weeks ago. The native of Owen Sound, Ontario, lives in Denver during the NLL season and it has been agonizing to be unable to play.

His shoulder was in a sling for three weeks and he was hopeful of returning to the lineup weeks ago but that was not to be. A freak accident prolonged his exile. He was helping out with a boys' team when a 10-year-old took a shot that struck him in the face.

''A little guy I was coaching missed the net and hit me in the eye,'' he explains. ''I couldn't be active for a couple of weeks which made me miss games against Calgary and Buffalo. It's okay now.''

The mishap reminded GM Steve Govett of a similar injury suffered by a former Mammoth player.

''We immediately thought of the eye injury that essentially ended the career of Alex Gajic,'' said Govett. ''Precautionary measures were implemented with Adam and we weren't going to take any risks.''

Casey Powell, who suffered a lower body injury during an OT win over Calgary on March 8, is also good to go. Govett confirmed that both Jones and Powell will be on the Pepsi Center floor Saturday.

This is at least the second time that Jones has paid a heavy price for his determined style of play. He blew out a knee in March 2011 while at Buffalo's Canisius College but that didn't discourage Govett from selecting him the first chance he got at the draft mic that year. Philadelphia took Kevin Crowley first, Rochester opted for Steven Keogh, and Colorado got Jones, whose 76-point first season earned him the award as NLL rookie of the year.

He scored 29 goals in his first season and 33 in his second, and he'll top that in 2014 now that he's fit to play again.

''It's been tough watching,'' he said in an interview. ''You watch and think you could make a difference but you're not out there.

''I'm excited to get back with the guys and battle on the floor instead of just sitting and watching. I haven't had the opportunity to play with the new coaching staff. I'm hoping to fit in where I left off and do what the coaches want me to help the team to win.''

Colorado has five games left. After facing Philly, the Mammoth go to Edmonton April 5, play Edmonton at home April 11, go to Minnesota on April 19, and finish their 18-game schedule at Philadelphia on April 26.

Vancouver has six games left and four are against teams above .500. The Stealth play at home this Saturday against Buffalo and April 5 against Toronto, are at Rochester on April 12, play at home April 19 against Philadelphia, are in Edmonton on April 25, and stay home on the 26th to play Calgary.

Colorado and Vancouver split their four-game season series 2-2 so if they finish with identical records the league would go to the second tiebreaker to determine who finishes third and gets a playoff berth. The second tiebreaker would be the teams' records within their division. Colorado is currently 4-5 and Vancouver is 2-7 within the West.

It all boils down to Colorado having the best shot at landing the last playoff spot, and chances of that happening are enhanced with the return of Adam Jones.

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