Jets D-men down

Jets dealt devastating blow with loss of Bogo, Enstrom and Clitsome; Buff will move back to shore up blue-line


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Maybe Dustin Byfuglien already had an inkling. And it could have been that his spidey senses were tingling long before he arrived for work Thursday morning.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/12/2014 (2853 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Maybe Dustin Byfuglien already had an inkling. And it could have been that his spidey senses were tingling long before he arrived for work Thursday morning.

Even so, when he did saunter into the Winnipeg Jets dressing room and spied the red practice jersey reserved for defencemen hanging in his locker, the proverbial winds of change must have hit him in the face like a stiff north wind.

Yes, the Jets’ hybrid full-time forward/part-time D-man is switching back to the blue-line after the club was dealt a devastating jab-cross-uppercut combo of bad news on Thursday with Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Grant Clitsome all gonzo due to an assortment of hurts until early 2015.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dustin Byfuglien (right) was wearing a familiar practice jersey Thursday — a red model reserved for defencemen.


— Bogosian, who finished Wednesday’s OT win over the Edmonton Oilers, will be gone for four to six weeks with a lower-body injury believed to be an injured foot after blocking a shot;

— Enstrom, out since Nov. 23, has not progressed in his rehab and will miss the rest of December;

— And Clitsome — who played just under 19 minutes in Boston last Friday but did not dress against the Oilers — will miss at least the next two weeks.

The impact has significant repercussions to both the Jets’ D corps and forward lines. Byfuglien, along with Mathieu Perreault and Evander Kane, combined to be the most-effective line against the Oilers, scoring the equalizer late and then teaming up for the winner in OT.

And the defence, minus Bogosian and Enstrom, will now be without two of their top- three minutemen.

“We got a big boatload of (bad news) today,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “Everybody is going to have their adversity through the course of the year. We’re hoping that ours can be contained to this. Everybody has to deal with this at some point.”

Enter Byfuglien, who was a 20-25 minutes-per-game D-man prior to being moved up front by Claude Noel last January just before he was fired.

“He’s clearly our best option in terms of the minutes lost with Toby and Zach especially,” Maurice reasoned. “He’s got experience there. We have to be a little bit patient… there’s a learning curve and different schemes with what we do. He’ll have an idea of it and he’ll have sat in the room and watched the video he’ll understand, but you’re more focused on your own position. So, there’s going to be a bit of an adjustment period.”

Added Byfuglien on the new-systems question: “Paul runs a totally different system than what we ran. It’s not going to be easy.”

Now, while Byfuglien’s play on the blue-line had been a hot-button issue in this town prior to the move last winter, his versatility does speak to his value to this franchise.

And the expectations — this isn’t a call-up from St. John’s stepping into the lineup, after all — are enormous.

“All we expect him to do is play like Nik Lidstrom (Friday) night,” Maurice quipped. “If we get that we’re happy… a 10-foot pass on the tape all over the ice and every once in a while a little magic at the offensive blue-line.

“Other than that, I don’t think we have too high expectations for him.”

Maurice, for his part, was dealing with Wednesday night/Thursday morning’s developments like a pro. He didn’t curse the club’s luck or bemoan the potential mess the hockey gods dumped on them.

First, he delivered the injury news with all the emotion of a guy ordering a pizza and followed with a wisecrack or two. When quizzed about his demeanour in the aftermath of three kicks to the nether regions, Maurice said:

“I liked practice today and that usually changes my day, good or bad. Look at it this way… we’ll miss Toby, we’ll miss Zach and we’ll miss Grant. So those three guys are sad. But look who’s happy. Matt Halischuk is in a pretty good mood today. He had a heckuva practice today.

“(Michael) Frolik goes with Perreault and Kane and they had some stuff going and so he’s feeling pretty good today. And I’m pretty sure Dustin is in a good mood. He was smiling all morning.” Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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