Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little was bloodied and woozy as he was helped from the ice with 12:33 remaining in the third period Tuesday night after absorbing a slapshot to the head from teammate Nikolaj Ehlers.
Little had already missed nine games due to a concussion to start the season and was sorely missed by the Jets during his stint on the injured list. He was behind the New Jersey net when Ehlers’ rising shot struck him in his left ear, breaking his helmet.
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice was asked if he had an update on Little’s condition.
“No I don’t. I’ll get it to you when we can,” said Maurice. “He’s certainly getting checked on right now.”
Little, who turns 32 on Nov. 12, had two goals and five points in seven games since returning to the lineup and had been integral to the club earning seven points in its past five outings.
On Tuesday, he had Winnipeg’s best scoring chance of the first period on a partial breakaway — only to be denied by Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood as he drove to the net.
But it was Little’s contributions in the defensive zone that had Maurice raving earlier in the day.
“When you have a youngish back end, you really rely on the centremen — they’re basically part of it,” Maurice said. “So when Bryan’s out or Adam Lowry’s out, we really miss that low-three coverage and he’s so good there.
“But he looks kinda rejuvenated, right? He’s got lots of jump. He missed those games and we missed him for sure and I think defensively as much as offensively.”
PIONK COMES THROUGH: the Jets have leaned heavily on defenceman Neal Pionk lately and Tuesday was no exception.
The 24-year-old blue-liner followed up 29:04 of ice time (28:18 in regulation) during Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win in Vegas with 23:28 Tuesday against the Devils.
“He’s been an incredibly efficient but high-intensity player, so he doesn’t burn a lot of energy trying to cover everybody’s job,” Maurice explained Tuesday morning. “Smart guy. Knows his job. Really, really effective with it, but fast with it and then he’s a fit man. He recovers very, very well on the bench but he won’t burn any extra energy but still plays a very, very intense game.
“Doesn’t conserve any shifts. He’s just really efficient with the way he gets it done.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
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