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As lockout ends, Jets' Bogosian skates for first time since wrist surgery

Winnipeg Jets Zach Bogosian takes part in an informal hockey practice in Winnipeg on Monday, January 7, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

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Winnipeg Jets Zach Bogosian takes part in an informal hockey practice in Winnipeg on Monday, January 7, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG - He's still unsure when he'll be back in the Winnipeg Jets' lineup following wrist surgery but defenceman Zach Bogosian is just happy to be back on skates.

"It felt good today," he said following Monday's workout, his first icetime since August. "I didn't really push it too much.

"It was just more of getting my legs under me a little bit . . . it felt good to be out there just to skate even though I wasn't doing much of competitive stuff."

Bogosian was one of a handful of injured NHL players who collected a paycheque during the NHL lockout. That means he still couldn't skate with teammates Monday since the deal that ended the labour impasse hasn't been ratified.

"My social life is going to bump up now that I can actually hang out with my teammates in the room," he said with a chuckle.

While still collecting on his two-year, US$5-million deal, Bogosian said he received a few calls to pay for dinner during the lockout.

"A couple of times I got suckered into it,'' he said.

Bogosian says he's taking it easy and hopes to be back for the team's lockout-shortened second season in Winnipeg, but isn't sure when. The original timeline for recovery was four-to-six months.

That means he could be back late next month but says that conversation hasn't taken place yet.

"I'm taking it day by day," he said. "I'll shoot to come back for the season but right now it's kind of up in the air."

Bogosian first injured his left wrist in October 2009 against the Ottawa Senators. Last year, he said doctors inserted a screw (recently removed) to help injured ligaments re-attach and heal properly.

The Jets could certainly use him.

With 30 points last season and the size to move opposing players off the puck, the six-foot-three Bogosian is an important part of Winnipeg's defence.

"I'm hoping to get back as soon as possible but I'm not going to make a dumb decision," he said.

At least he'll be less lonely. Once the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified, Bogosian will be able to practise again with other players as he prepares to return to the ice full time.

The MTS Centre is far too big for just one player, he added.

"It's like a ghost town in there," he said.

A handful of other players were on a separate sheet of ice Monday at the facility the team uses for practice.

Centre Bryan Little says they've tried to stay in shape like other players idled by the lockout.

"I think we've been going pretty hard," he said. "At first we were just skating three days a week and now we're at it five or six.

"We're going a lot harder and kind of easing back in the gym a little bit and trying to get back into game shape. Once the season starts, you've got to be back on top of it right away."

Centre Jim Slater, who filled the role of team ambassador last season, says he hopes fans will understand and come back to support the Jets.

"Here, fans are very knowledgeable, they understand the game of hockey and, you know, the business part's a big part of the game now," he said. "Hopefully, they understand why we had to go through this and, hopefully, no hard feelings when we get back on the ice."

Fortunately for the Jets, there isn't much chance they'll lose significant support. The MTS Centre is sold out for years to come with a paid waiting list of 8,000 names on it.

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