Byfuglien’s absence equals more minutes for Jets blue-liners
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/01/2019 (1484 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the Winnipeg Jets await the return of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien from an ankle injury, it will remain an all-hands-on-deck approach to the blue line.
Those that were already logging notable minutes are getting more, while others deeper down the depth chart have seen a major tick in their ice time over the last few games. Since Byfuglien’s injury on Dec. 29, Ben Chiarot and Dmitry Kulikov have been asked to give more each night. For Joe Morrow, it’s simply an opportunity to play, as he was a healthy scratche the previous seven games and missed eight before that with an injury.
The biggest benefactors from Byfuglien’s absence, however, have been Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. The three have been leaned on heavily to make up for the loss of No. 33, and it’s shown with a major increase in ice time.
“It’s really tough when you have really important players out of your lineup, specifically on the back end. When Buff’s out you notice everyone was really disappointed to see him get hurt just because he’s been playing so well and he’s been playing so well for us all year,” said Morrissey.
“At that point everybody probably picks up a few more minutes, a little more responsibility and you have to try to play the best you can in that opportunity. For our team one of our strengths is our depth. Even players coming up from the (Manitoba) Moose have done a great job for us as well when they’ve been called upon. If you’re going to do well in this league and try to win games throughout the 82-game season and into the playoffs, you’re going to need to have depth and it’s been something that’s been a bright spot for us for sure.”
Morrissey has logged at least 23 minutes of ice time in each of the three games Byfuglien has been out, with one of those games eclipsing the 26-minute mark.
The 23-year-old hadn’t played more than 22 minutes in nine of his previous 10 games, but it’s a workload he said he’s comfortable with, including filling in for Byfuglien on the No. 1 power-play unit.
“As a player all you can really ask for or want is more opportunity and that is something that you’ve got to earn and you do that by playing well… it’s tough to see Buff go down but at the same time if you’re called upon to hop over the boards a couple more times, in some key situations he’d normally be in, you have to embrace that,” said Morrissey. “As a player all you really want and are looking for is opportunity and then you have to make the most of it from there.”
Myers was playing mostly on the third pairing, along with Kulikov, but with Byfuglien out he’s moved to the second pairing with Chiarot. He’s averaging more than 23 minutes per game with Byfuglien out — a jump of nearly four minutes from what he was averaging in his previous 11 games.
The Jets are 2-1 without Byfuglien and though it’s a small sample size, head coach Paul Maurice said he’s seen an improvement in Myers, though he added that any player given more ice time would likely benefit from the added responsibility.
“It would be true of all of them. If you took Dmitry and Joe and did the same thing, their game would get better. You’re just in that rhythm more. Our right D is the area of depth on our team,” Maurice said. “We have three guys that can play 25 minutes and if you asked them they’d rather play 28.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.