WINNIPEG — It’s starting to look like Dustin Byfuglien’s date at the NHL all-star game next weekend is off.
Neither the Jets nor the NHL haven’t said so yet, but there were strong signs today that Byfuglien’s presence in Ottawa just isn’t in the cards.
The dominant blueliner has not played since before Christmas, out now nearly a month due to a wonky knee. He is on the mend, and was on the ice messing around with a few teammates today at MTS IcePlex but he still hasn’t participated in a full team practice, something head coach Claude Noel holds as a firm standard when it comes to players returning to his lineup.
"He’s a little ways... he’s got to start practising with us a little bit first," Noel told reporters after a brief on-ice session today.
Byfuglien certainly isn’t a player when the Jets meet the Florida Panthers Saturday night at the MTS Centre, so that leaves two more games before the all-star game, Monday in Carolina and Tuesday in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Asked if Byfuglien will go on the trip with the team, Noel said that Friday morning’s pre-game skate, in which he expects Byfuglien will try to participate, will tell much.
"This is what we’re contemplating," Noel said. "I think he might skate with us in the morning (Friday), get some icetime with us, then we’re trying to toss around bringing him with us, to get him on the ice and get going.
"I’m not sure he’s going to be able to play. He hasn’t practised with the team yet. He’s a little ways away from that.
"The next question is the all-star situation. I’m not quite sure where that lends itself. He needs to play a game or two in my estimation to be able to play in the all-star game, so that might be up in the air.
"My preference would be that we make sure he’s 100 per cent or close before he takes part in the all-star game. He needs to play with us first."
There were strong signs today that defenceman Zach Bogosian, who’s missed five games due to a lower-body injury, is ready to return on Saturday against the Panthers.
Also today, TSN has reported that the Jets have placed defenceman Derek Meech on waviers. Meech has played just two games this season and is nearly fully recovered from knee surgery. He almost certainly would be sent to AHL St. John’s if he clears waivers.