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Byfuglien expects to play against Flyers

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Sign No. 1 that Dustin Byfuglien is ready to return to action for the Winnipeg Jets:

The big man was not only conducting a rare interview Sunday morning, he was cracking wise with a size-large grin on his face.

Byfuglien has missed the last five games with an undisclosed "lower-body" injury, but declared himself good to go after an optional practice at the MTS Centre.

"It felt good. It's been awhile and it's nice to be back out there with some guys," said Byfuglien.

Asked if he thought he would be ready to play Tuesday night when the Philadelphia Flyers pay a visit, Byfuglien said: "As of right now, I think so. Good to go.

"I just had a little maintenance to do on the lower body, just taking care of it. We didn't want it to drag on and make it happen for the long haul, so we took care of it right away."

Byfuglien said the latest injury came right before the pre-game skate in Florida on Jan. 31 and was not related to last year's knee troubles, adding:

"It was a fresh one. Some wax buildup in my ear."

"We'll keep the medical part out of his hands, that's the first thing we'll do there," said head coach Claude Noel later. "I haven't talked to the trainers yet to see exactly what's happening, with not only him but others as well -- we kind of had a maintenance day today."

Byfuglien has three goals and four assists in six games this year and, with or without him in the lineup, his defence partner Toby Enstrom continues to rack up points.

Enstrom has two goals and 11 assists and continues to lead all NHL defencemen in scoring. The secret to the Swede's success?

"He must have went and watched a couple of my tapes and taken a few things," joked Byfuglien. "No... he's really stepped his game up. That's what he does. He's smooth, smart, he sees the ice well and he does a great job."

Byfuglien, while seeing Bogosian walk by as he conducted his interview, jokingly referred to his teammate as a "meatball." But it's possible both Byfuglien and Bogosian could be in the lineup for the first time this season later this week.

"We want to make sure we give him an opportunity to succeed, that's the first thing," said Noel of Bogosian. "It'll be a day-to-day decision with him. I know what you're going to ask me: 'Will he be in the game Tuesday?' I can't answer that question today. I don't know if it's enough time yet and I'd have to check with the medical people to see how he responds tomorrow to practice and go from there.

"I think his conditioning level is pretty good, that's not going to be the issue. It's more of the risk and how sore it is and how flexible (his wrist) is."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2013 C2

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