Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Little draws assist in return

Skates well after missing almost month with foot injury

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The return of centre Bryan Little had a ripple effect on the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night.

The 24-year-old from Edmonton had missed eight games with a bruised foot but came back into the lineup at First Niagara Center and had a hand in the team's 2-1 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

"(The game) had its regular ebb and flow and I thought the addition of Little was a real big add for us," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "He looked quite good for being out pretty much a month.

"And we got a timely goal and played a good road game. We got it done and we're happy we finally won a game in the New Year."

Jets' lines were changed around with Little's return and the team was sharper. And Little assisted on Winnipeg's five-on-three goal with less than five seconds left in the second period.

And in the middle between Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler, who have both been solid contributors offensively, Little was right back on the horse.

"Wheeler's skating so well right now and so is Kane," Noel said. "It was good to have Little. He was really good. They kind of played the way they left off when he got hurt a while ago. It was good to see they had some speed and some instant chemistry. They were a threat in a tight-checking game."

Little said it took him some time to find the pace on Saturday.

"The foot felt pretty good," he said. "The first couple of shifts felt 10 times faster than I remember. It seemed a big difference from watching from the press box. When you get down to the ice level, things happen really fast.

"I found after the first period, about halfway through the game, I started to feel more comfortable and got used to the speed again."

Little said what he really liked was that the Jets resumed creating offence, something they had not done much of in two road games earlier this week.

"We did a better job, I think, offensively, just getting pucks to the net," he said. "We had 40 shots and I think that was kind of our goal, shoot everything and not be too fancy."

Little also had something of a smile over the call that helped the Jets square the game late in the second period.

With Buffalo's Thomas Vanek already in the penalty box, Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth lost his stick. Defenceman Jordan Leopold shot Enroth's stick back to him, which is against the rules.

The penalty put the home team down two men for 1:45, and the Jets converted.

"I wouldn't say it was a break because I got called on that exact same thing in Toronto in October," Little explained. "(Zach) Bogosian lost his stick, and I shot his stick two feet to him and that's a penalty.

"They said I was allowed to pick it up, but you can't shoot it. We hadn't heard of that."

JETCETERA: Forward Alex Burmistrov sat out with a "mid-level" injury and centre Tim Stapleton also missed the game because of the flu.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2012 B2

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