Byfuglien’s back skating, but isn’t ready for a game

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was back on the ice with his teammates Monday for the first time in more than a month, but it’s likely to be a little while still before he returns to action.

Byfuglien, who was wearing a non-contact jersey for the morning skate ahead of the Jets’ clash with the Dallas Stars, has missed 17 games with a lower-body injury he sustained Feb. 14. There’s a good chance he’ll miss the next couple games, though head coach Paul Maurice called his return to practice the first “big step” in his recovery.

“We’ll get him into a full practice on Wednesday, and then kind of move forward from there,” Maurice told reporters. “He’s been able to do quite a bit off-ice (in workouts), which has been good, so he doesn’t feel far off it.

“Dustin is one of those guys, for the most part, who can miss a couple weeks and then throw his gear on and you can’t tell,” Maurice added. “There’s a certain timeline for the doctors to say, ‘OK, there’s the appropriate amount of healing that if he feels good, he can go.’ This is the week, this past week, where he’s starting to come to the rink and say, ‘Yeah, I feel pretty darn good.’”

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Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was back on the ice with his teammates Monday for the first time in more than a month, but it’s likely to be a little while still before he returns to action.

Byfuglien, who was wearing a non-contact jersey for the morning skate ahead of the Jets’ clash with the Dallas Stars, has missed 17 games with a lower-body injury he sustained Feb. 14. There’s a good chance he’ll miss the next couple games, though head coach Paul Maurice called his return to practice the first “big step” in his recovery.

“We’ll get him into a full practice on Wednesday, and then kind of move forward from there,” Maurice told reporters. “He’s been able to do quite a bit off-ice (in workouts), which has been good, so he doesn’t feel far off it.

“Dustin is one of those guys, for the most part, who can miss a couple weeks and then throw his gear on and you can’t tell,” Maurice added. “There’s a certain timeline for the doctors to say, ‘OK, there’s the appropriate amount of healing that if he feels good, he can go.’ This is the week, this past week, where he’s starting to come to the rink and say, ‘Yeah, I feel pretty darn good.’”

Byfuglien has missed two notable stretches this season, including a span of 15 games between Dec. 29 and Feb. 7 with a high-ankle sprain. The 33-year-old has been a part of just 37 games this year — just under half of the Jets’ 75 games played so far in the 2018-19 campaign. He has registered 30 points (four goals and 26 assists) and averages a team-high 24 minutes 26 seconds of ice time per game.

“We’re not going to accomplish our goals without him,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “We’ve sure missed him and it’s great to see him back out there with the boys. He always brings a positive energy to our room and any time he’s on the ice with us. It’s a good sign.”

CONNOR NAMED FIRST STAR

Kyle Connor’s torrid run over the past seven days was given recognition Monday, as the 22-year-old winger was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

Connor recorded eight points (five goals, three assists) in four games, including his first NHL hat trick in a 5-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

“The speed and his hands match his feet, which is unusual at that rate of speed, so he can do some really quick, little things. But where he became an NHL player and now such a strong one for us is he, at his size, he’s still as hard on pucks as anybody else,” Maurice said. “He might do it differently, he’s not going to maybe separate a guy from the puck like an Adam Lowry might, but he’s going to get to that thing and if it’s an even (battle), he’s got the feet and the hands to pull it off you and then create.”

Connor was far less celebratory when pressed about earning his first first-star-of-the-week honours.

“It’s always nice to get some recognition, but it’s all business from here on out,” he said. “We’re pretty focused as a group and me, personally, so it’s the task at hand for me.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

Read full biography