TAMPA, Fla. – Expect both Dustin Byfuglien and Alex Burmistrov to be back in the Winnipeg Jet lineup ASAP.
Officially, whether the two players return Thursday against the Tampa Lightning will be a "game-time decision," according to head coach Claude Noel, but both men have practiced fully with the team for the last two days and declared themselves good to go after Wednesday’s session at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"I’m ready. I’m sick of sitting out and watching," Byfuglien said. "It’s not the funnest thing to be doing. But you’ve got to take care of yourself to be ready to go. I’ve been around and skating well and I feel ready to go. Everything is 100 per cent, it was just a matter of getting comfortable and getting used to the brace."
Byfuglien has been out of the Jets lineup since the Christmas holidays and has missed 16 games with a knee injury. During his absence the Jets were 7-8-1, but missed his physical presence and his point shot from the power-play. The big question now is how the club manages his minutes with three games in four nights.
"He looks good today," said Noel. "He’s on IR (injured reserve) so we have to do some things related to that and I haven’t spoken to Chevy (GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) yet and management. He looks like he’s coming along good, so we hope that he’s a player.
"We have to be intelligent about how things go with Buff. He hasn’t practiced much, he hasn’t played in four-five weeks with us. The fear that I have is does your team mentality change? Sometimes you think you’ve added a guy or two and you let up. I don’t think we’re there, I don’t think we’re at that stage. He brings a lot of stuff."
Meanwhile, Byfuglien’s court case from a boating incident last summer will also resume Thursday morning in Minneapolis with his lawyer Mitchell Robinson scheduled to meet with the prosecutor and judge in the case as part of a settlement conference. Byfuglien has pleaded not guilty to charges of boating while intoxicated, without navigational lights and proper flotation devices for the passengers on board and for refusing a blood or urine test.
"It’s a chance for me to meet with the prosecutor and the judge and talk about ways to try and settle the case," Robinson said Wednesday afternoon. "Most cases are settled at the settlement conference, probably about 85 per cent of them. I’m hoping we can hammer out something that everybody can live with, but if we don’t work out something favourable, we set the case for trial."
Robinson is hoping the settlement would involve agreeing to reduced charges for the flotation and navigational light infractions.
The Jets could also use Burmistrov’s skill. The gifted young Russian has missed the last two games after suffering a concussion when crashing into the boards in a loss to Carolina on Jan. 23.
"I feel good, no symptoms or anything," Burmistrov said. "I’m good to go, I think. That’s the first (concussion). Maybe for the first three days I felt dizzy, but right now it feels good.
"It’s really hard to watch. I think I was more tired than anybody last night. I feel tired and I didn’t play."