Buffalo, N.Y. — Matt Luff isn’t a big fan of blood, so this wasn’t ideal.
Luff was hit on the side of his mouth Saturday night with a shot puck against Minnesota. Luff immediately looked and felt around his face to assess the damage.
The news wasn’t good.
“I hate blood,” said Luff, his face the worse for wear after Monday’s morning skate but still able to smile about the experience. “Looking down and seeing all that, I was ‘Oh God, here we go.’
“Instantly, you take stock and you know what happened. I looked down and saw blood on my face, so I tried to get into the room quickly and get it under control.”
The final result turned out to be 16 stitches (eight inside, eight outside his mouth), as well as several teeth that are bent. The future of those teeth will be determined in a dentist’s chair within the next couple of days.
“We have a lot going on,” Luff said.
Most folks would likely take some time off after such an accident. Then, there’s hockey culture for you, and there was Luff was back on the ice for an optional skate Sunday, and going full bore at Monday’s practice and ready to play.
There was, Luff said, never any doubt he wouldn’t.
“I was trying to get out there for the third (period, Saturday) but at the 16-minute mark, I was still getting stitched up, and (still) after the game,” Luff said. “I was down there for a while. I talked to (general manager) Steve (Yzerman) after the game and he was wondering what was going on, and I said, ‘I’ll be good for Buffalo’ and kind of go from there.
“I just went out there (Sunday) to figure out shields (for the helmet, which Luff wore Monday) and if everything felt good and there was nothing there, so I’ll take it.”
There was no concern of a concussion, in that Luff remembered vividly all the details of what happened and details about the game, along with no headaches of any kind.
Luff’s parents drove in from Toronto for Saturday’s game. Luff made sure to text his mother quickly as possible, sending her a picture, to reassure her that everything was being taken care of.
Luff, 25, never had anything of this sort of injury his entire career. Truthfully, Luff felt he escaped even more serious injury.
“I’ve played since I was three, and this is the first time anything like this has happened,” said Luff, who estimated that he received approximately 100 texts from friends, family and former teammates making sure everything was good. “So, it’s kind of the price you pay at the end of the day for playing this sport. It’s going to happen. It’s just my mouth; it could have been higher up my face, and who knows what could have happened then.
“You take the positive out of it. It’s the mouth, and it got sewn up and you keep going from there.”
Eating and sleeping the last two nights have been a work in progress.
“Not a lot of chewy things, I had risotto (Sunday night) and some soups,” Luff said. “I can chew on the sides (of the mouth). They got nothing (damaged). Sleeping the first night wasn’t great, but (Sunday) was fine. “It’s getting better day by day.”
This was only Luff’s second game with the Wings, having been recalled from Grand Rapids when injuries and a two-game suspension to Michael Rasmussen cut into the Wings’ lineup.
Luff has played 89 NHL games with Los Angeles and Nashville, so he has the experience to plug into the lineup.
“You look at five regulars out of the lineup, so it’s an opportunity to come in and show the coaches you can play at this level,” Luff said. “Just come in and show your stuff and that you’re a guy who can play with pace and energy and tries to hunt down the puck hit things that move.”
Coach Derek Lalonde was impressed by Luff’s determination and will to play.
“Just a credit to him,” Lalonde said. “He was buzzing around (Sunday) and that’s a credit to him, that’s a lot of hockey players.
“It’s a culture thing for sure. You play through injuries, and especially a guy like Luff, who is appreciative for the opportunity, he signs with an organization and you sell a player like that you’d be a depth guy, up and down the lineup, and then here we are two weeks into the season, he gets an opportunity. He’s embracing it, and him fighting through, that’s a good sign.”
Lalonde and Todd Beam, the Wings’ media relations manager, both western New York natives, attended Sunday’s Buffalo Bills game against the Green Bay Packers.
“It was cool. It just brought back some memories as a kid of going to the stadium,” said Lalonde, who estimates he’s been to about 15 Bills games in his life. “I will say this. I’m a Buffalo Bills fan, but my guy Beamer is a passionate Buffalo Bills fan. That’s a true fan. I’m a big Bills fan, but Beamer is a Bills fan. “The two didn’t take part in the Bills Mafia festivities, or tailgate in the legendary area outside the stadium.
“No, we were in the old-person hangout,” Lalonde said. “There was no table-breaking. We certainly aged ourselves with the crew we were hanging out with in pregame.”