Kulikov has key role in Jets’ campaign


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Dmitry Kulikov went from a potential buyout candidate in the off-season to a defenceman with a major role to play this season for the Winnipeg Jets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/09/2019 (1283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dmitry Kulikov went from a potential buyout candidate in the off-season to a defenceman with a major role to play this season for the Winnipeg Jets.

The NHL team’s blue line is rather thin on experience, and Kulikov finds himself as the veteran of the group at training camp at the Iceplex. Kulikov’s former partner, Tyler Myers, is now with the Vancouver Canucks, Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers and Ben Chiarot signed with the Montreal Canadians.

Dustin Byfuglien remains out of action for the time being after asking for, and being granted a personal leave of absence late last week.

Kulikov, who averaged a career-low 15 minutes, 40 seconds of ice time per game during the 2018-19 campaign, said having to step up hasn’t been a taxing adjustment.

“(It’s) fine. It’s the exact same thing,” Kulikov said Sunday morning from the Iceplex. “Players change, but the game doesn’t change. So, it’s totally fine.

“Everybody has to work hard and there’s no exception. I have more experience, so I can use it sometimes. But you know, hard work, there’s no way around it.”

Kulikov entered the 2018-19 season coming off back surgery, started slowly, but was picking up his game and earning the trust of his coaches when he suffered an upper-body injury in mid-November that shelved him for four weeks. Returning to the lineup before the holiday season, his play was hardly consistent the rest of the season.

The Russian-born 28-year-old, who had six assists in 57 games a year ago, said he feels ahead of schedule because he was healthy all summer and had a regular training regimen.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice said the difference is noticeable.

“First of all, his fitness numbers were really strong. A player that came in off a back injury so he looks right, back to full go, and he wants this opportunity,” Maurice said. “He’s able to push. He’s shown that he wants more by how hard he is working now, and he’s going to get it.”

Don’t ask Kulikov about his back because he’s done talking about it. After confirming his back is feeling 100 per cent, Kulikov walked away from a scrum of reporters, with a parting shot: “That’s the last question about my back.”

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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