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Veteran defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will return to the Winnipeg lineup when the Jets host the Vancouver Canucks tonight at Bell MTS Place.
Game time is 7 p.m.
Jets head coach Dustin Byfuglien, who missed two games with an upper-body injury, will replace Dmitry Kulikov in the lineup and return to a pairing with Ben Chariot.
Byfuglien’s physical presence has been lacking but his teammates have also missed the emotional spark he brings to the club.
“He does a lot for everybody here,” said blue-liner Joe Morrow, Byfuglien’s frequent defence partner in the past. “Just playing with him or playing with him in the lineup as a whole — he’s got a really good presence to him. He brings the mood up for the back end. Obviously, the bench is kinda split half and half, so having him on the bench is always fun.
“You hear him yellin’ at guys and keeping the mood a little lighter in sticky situations, which calms guys down and is sometimes what you need in hockey sometimes when everything’s amplified.”
Byfuglien’s return to the power play will also be appreciated.
“Obviously a really good offensive presence and a really strong guy that when other guys are on the ice against him, they definitely keep their head up,” said Morrow. “It definitely changes the dynamic of the game.”
A TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT?
Vancouver’s arrival sparked more questions for Jets winger Patrik Laine, who gently mocked the Canucks earlier this month for banning video games on road trips, telling reporters: “They need something to blame after last year.”
Some Canucks took umbrage with Laine’s comments at the time but the 20-year-old Finn, an avid gamer himself, wasn’t worried about about any on-ice controversy tonight.
“Oh, if I’m being honest, I don’t really care,” said Laine. “It’s just something I said, it was meant as a joke, but I think somebody’s probably going to mention that, but I’m just going to say nothing and focus on playing hockey and focus on winning.”
Linemate and fellow gamer Nikolaj Ehlers expected a rude reception.
“I’d definitely chirp them back,” said Ehlers. “I mean, I think everybody took it a little hard but the people that know Patty know that he just says some weird stuff sometimes and doesn’t mean it as a chirp, he just makes a little fun. Hopefully we get some chirps out there. I’m fired up.”
Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get the start in net for the Jets while Winnipegger Brendan Leipsic, a left-winger on the Canucks, will be a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.