WINNIPEG – It looks like the Winnipeg Jets will be able to count high-scoring defenceman Dustin Byfuglien among the able-bodied as early as Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Byfuglien looks like a player for the game,” coach Claude Noel said Monday.
But the team’s other absent defenceman, Zach Bogosian, is more of a question mark.
“Bogosian probably needs to practise a little bit. . . As I said before we want to put him a position where he has a chance to succeed.”
Bogosian, who had off-season wrist surgery and hasn’t played a game since this lockout-shortened season began, took full part in practice Monday and said he was feeling good.
“You can’t really be game ready until you’re actually in the game but I’ve had a couple of good practices with the guys and a few bumps in the corner and stuff like that and I haven’t had any issues,” he said.
“Hopefully it’s turned the corner a little bit and hopefully I’m back soon.”
Byfuglien was the No. 2-scoring defenceman in the NHL last season but he has missed the last five games with an undisclosed injury he sustained on a road trip to Florida.
Noel says they’ve missed his offensive talents as well as his size in the defensive zone. At six foot five and 265 pounds he can be very effective at stopping the puck and getting it moved out.
Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec also remains a question mark, after missing the Jets’ last game in Ottawa with a flu-like illness.
He says he feels better but wouldn’t say he was 100 per cent after eating for the first time since he fell ill.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “The last two days I had two practices. I feel better now. I finally ate something yesterday. . . It’s the coach’s decision.”
He said he had a flu shot this season and doesn’t remember ever feeling that ill.
The team didn’t suffer from his absence. Backup Al Montoya recorded a shutout and his second win in his second start this season.
Noel says he’ll see how Pavelec is tomorrow before deciding who will be in the Jets net.
Noel was disgusted with the way the team played in their 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last week and he juggled his lines to try and improve performance.
Right-wing Blake Wheeler found himself put back on a line with captain Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. The three had a lot of success last season.
“For me, going back with Laddie and Litts, that’s not much of a changeup for me. I’m very comfortable with those guys and we’ve played very well in the past together.”
Offensively, Winnipeg hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse this season, without a forward on the list of the league’s 50 top scorers. Wheeler (55 on the list) and Ladd (54) at nine points are the team’s top-scoring forwards.
The scoring lead goes to defenceman Tobias Enstrom, with 13 points.
But it’s also the defensive play of his forwards that concerns Noel. Wheeler is moving from a line with Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen that saw him sink to a minus-9.
“I’ve been a plus player my whole life and I take pride in that,” he said.
“I’m working to get myself on the right side of things cause I know I’m a plus player.”
Noel says he has to give players some breathing room to get used to the new lineups.
“I don’t want to start getting into the merry-go-round of lines. You’ve got to allow the lines to kind of find their way a little bit. The Little line has been together in the past and you have to allow them to get back to potentially finding that chemistry again.”