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Jets shuffle lines, hope to change fortunes

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Winnipeg Jets watch as coach Claude Noel draws up a game plan at practice at the MTS Centre Friday morning.  The Jets, now last in the NHL's Central Division at 19-22-5, next play Saturday at home against Columbus.

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Winnipeg Jets watch as coach Claude Noel draws up a game plan at practice at the MTS Centre Friday morning. The Jets, now last in the NHL's Central Division at 19-22-5, next play Saturday at home against Columbus. Photo Store

Looking for a big spark to turn around a four-game nosedive, the Winnipeg Jets have turned to moving Dustin Byfuglien to forward and juggling their lines as a start.

And, yes, given that Byfuglien is one of the biggest human beings on skates the move unofficially qualifies as a "extra-large" spark.

Byfuglien worked on the Jets’ No. 1 line at Friday’s practice in advance of Saturday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (6 p.m.; CBC/TSN 1290), patrolling the right side with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd.

And there’s more:

  • With Evander Kane out with a hand injury, Eric O’Dell was playing left wing on a line with Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik.
  • The Byfuglien move shifted Blake Wheeler to a line with Olli Jokinen, with Devin Setoguchi moving from right to left wing on that unit.
  • The fourth line now features James Wright centering Eric Tangradi and Chris Thorburn.

When the "desperate times call for desperate measures" analogy was tossed out after practice Friday, head coach Claude Noel offered this:

"I don’t know if it’s desperate. You try to find ways to win. Dustin played last year a little bit up front and was pretty hard to handle in some episodes of the game. He can be a guy that can have an impact on the game and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re trying to move things around a little bit to get some different things happen as part of the solution, I guess."

Byfuglien has played forward before with the Jets, but has been primarily a defenceman since being traded from Chicago to Atlanta in 2010.

But not only has Noel switched him from defence to forward, he’s put him on the Jets’ top line. When asked what he hoped to accomplish with that move, Noel didn’t hesitate.

"Production," he said. "What I’m hoping to accomplish, not only with that line or with each line, is positive production and hope we can move forward. But let’s make sure we’re clear here: if we’re going to move in any direction we’ve got to get our work boots on. That’s the first thing, I don’t care where you’re playing. We’ve got to win battles, we’ve got to get to the hard areas and we’ve got to win in the hard areas. You can juggle all you want."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

History

Updated on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:23 PM CST: corrects spelling of Byfuglien

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