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The injury bug has finally bitten the Winnipeg Jets.
Veteran defenceman Dmitry Kulikov is expected to miss at least a month of action after suffering an upper-body injury in Friday night’s 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
Kulikov took a hit from Gabriel Bourque late in the first period and immediately began favouring his arm and shoulder, heading straight to the locker room and not returning.
Coach Paul Maurice confirmed the diagnosis following Saturday’s practice at Bell MTS Iceplex.
“He’s out at least a month, and maybe longer than that. That would be the first open window. Probably the next time I give you an update will be four weeks from now,” said Maurice.
It’s a tough break for Kulikov, who had off-season back surgery and had been in and out of the lineup so far this season as he tried to work his way back to form. Kulikov was very noticeable off the hop against the Avalanche, throwing a couple big hits prior to going down. He had one assist in six games.
“That was his best period of hockey. He was playing great. Physical, moving the puck, skating. Pretty unfortunate. It’s a little challenge for him now. He felt that before his injury last year, he really liked his game, and it was long-term. This one is tough for him to handle,” said Maurice.
The injury opens the door for Joe Morrow to remain in the lineup. Morrow and Kulikov had been rotating being healthy scratches in recent games.
“You feel bad for situations like that. It’s just disheartening to see someone work so hard and come back, you want to play hard and start contributing to the team and be part of what’s going on here again. I think you kind of go overboard and you try a little too hard and put yourself in a vulnerable position. Myself, I’ve done that before and I understand how it works,” Morrow said Saturday.
“It’s tough, it’s part of the sport. He was right on the brink, he just worked so hard and it’s a major surgery to have in the offseason. Even to be able to come back at all and play after that is insanely impressive. So you feel bad when you catch a bad break like that and get injured again.”
The Jets are also expected to call up a defenceman from the Manitoba Moose in time for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils (6 p.m. at Bell MTS Place). Tucker Poolman and Sami Niku would be the two most likely candidates. The Moose were hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins in AHL action Saturday night, and Maurice said a decision would be made following that game.
“I think this organization has done a very good job in recruiting guys and being able to stack the depth of a team. Anybody that wants to come play and can jump into any spot in the lineup at any given time is going to do well. I think that’s what they kind of pride themselves on,” said Morrow.
Winnipeg had avoided any significant injuries so far this year through the first 15 games, in which they’ve gone 9-5.1. Only Dustin Byfuglien missed a pair of contests with a minor ailment.
Connor Hellebuyck will make his 13th start of the season against the Devils as they try to build off their impressive performance against Colorado.
“I thought we worked hard, we played fast. We got on their D, got pucks to the net. And that’s the game we want to play. Defensively I thought we played good. Obviously there’s still a lot of things to improve. But it’s going to be like that the whole season. So it’s definitely a step forward,” said Nikolaj Ehlers, who scored the game-winning goal early in the third period.
New Jersey (6-7-1) is coming off a 6-1 loss Friday night in Toronto.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.