Kulikov trying to forget about last season’s ‘frustrating’ back injury

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In professional hockey, freak injuries will happen, just ask Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Kulikov, who spent last year with the Buffalo Sabres, hurt his back during a preseason game against Toronto. The injury forced him to go in and out of the lineup throughout the 2016-17 season.

After taking a hit from Colin Greening, the 26-year-old went into the boards (in front of the bench area). As Kulikov hit the wall, the door to the bench opened and his back smacked the corner of the opening (click here to watch the incident).

The lingering back pain caused him to play in just 47 games for the Sabres.

Kulikov is hoping that a fresh start in a new city will lead to some better luck when it comes to staying healthy. He signed a three-year deal with Winnipeg on July 1st, and he’s hoping to put last year’s injury troubles behind him.

“Definitely, I’m trying not to think about that a lot,” said Kulikov, per the Winnipeg Sun. “It just takes you out of your rhythm when you play 10 games and miss 20 and then play 10 and miss 20. You don’t get into a rhythm. You don’t get familiar with the system. Mentally, it’s hard because it’s always on your mind, that injury bugging you on a daily basis. A lot of the times it was frustrating during the season, having to go through rehab and then it happens again, going to rehab and it happens again. You just kind of couldn’t break that cycle, so that was the toughest part.”

It’s unclear how much Kulikov will play or who he’ll play with on his new team. Winnipeg has a number of quality blue liners on their roster, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role head coach Paul Maurice gives his new defender.

The Russian rearguard has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game in each of his last six NHL seasons.