Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buff edging closer to return... maybe Thursday

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Dustin Byfuglien and Alex Burmistrov are close to returning, Evander Kane and Tim Stapleton are headed back to Winnipeg for further evaluation and Aaron Gagnon and Spencer Machacek have joined the team from St. John's.

Oh, and there was also a minor trade that involved two players playing for the same AHL squad in Abbotsford.

So what do you call this kind of roster-shuffling madness for the Winnipeg Jets?

Monday.

Yes, in a season in which the Jets have lost over 200-man games due to injury -- that's the club's estimate -- and repeatedly struggled to maintain some semblance of roster continuity, Monday's update following practice at the University of Pennsylvania provided its share of good and bad news.

The bad, first...

Evander Kane (concussion) and Tim Stapleton (lower-body injury) are returning to Winnipeg. Kane, using his previously-booked ticket, pit-stopped here after his all-star break to hook up with his teammates. Neither one is expected to rejoin the team during this four-game road trip.

"(Kane's) probably a little ways away because we've got to get him working out, but he's feeling better," said head coach Claude Noel. "We'll see what his assessment is there. I think he still has some areas of symptoms. We haven't got to the stage where he is working out yet and that's probably a little ways away."

Noel said Stapleton had hit a 'bump' in his recovery from a lower-body injury.

And the good news...

Both Byfuglien and Burmistrov practised with the Jets on Monday wearing orange, no-contact jerseys. Neither will suit up for tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers but could get the green light for Thursday's contest against Tampa or Friday's matchup in Sunrise with the Florida Panthers.

"Byfuglien is close, but will not be a player (Tuesday). But he's close and we're hoping... soon," said Noel. "I'm not sure if it's the next game or not, but it's going to be close. Burmistrov, we're going to keep him out for another day but he's also close.

"Other than that, everybody's ready to go health-wise. We've just got to get our rust out. There was a lot of rust out there on the ice today. We had to get a special Zamboni out there to come in and clean it up."

As for the promotions from St. John's, the 26-year-old Gagnon made his Jets debut against the New York Rangers a week ago after racking up eight goals and 12 assists in 35 games with the IceCaps. He has appeared in 22 career NHL games with Dallas and Winnipeg after originally being drafted by Phoenix in 2004.

Machacek, 23, leads the IceCaps in scoring with 34 points (11G, 23A) in 44 games. He has 12 NHL games under his belt with Atlanta after originally being drafted by the Thrashers in 2007.

"I talked to (IceCaps head coach) Keith (McCambridge) down in St. John's and he's played really well for them, especially in the last stretch," said Noel of Machacek. "Although he doesn't have good foot speed, he's an energy guy that can play. I liked him in training camp. He's not a pretty player but he's result-oriented and that's what I liked about him. He got some stuff done around the net, he goes to the net, he plays the game like he wants to win the game. He'll bring some good energy there."

The Jets also announced a minor trade, dealing forward Akim Aliu to the Calgary Flames for defenceman John Negrin. The Jets had already loaned Aliu to the Flames and both he and Negrin were playing for the team's AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.

The 22-year-old Negrin has played in 26 games with Abbotsford this year, picking up one assist, after starting the season with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. A 6-3, 205-pound product of Vancouver, Negrin was a third-round draft pick of the Flames in 2007 and had appeared in three NHL contests.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2012 D3

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