Winnipeg has collected 20 of a possible 28 points in his absence but the Jets are still eager to get veteran Dustin Byfuglien back in their lineup.
The 33-year-old defenceman, who has missed 14 games after suffering a lower-body injury in a collision with Minnesota's Luke Kunin on Dec. 29, practised for the first time in a regular jersey at the Bell MTS Iceplex Monday morning and could get the green light for Tuesday's showdown with the San Jose Sharks.
Byfuglien, unavailable for comment following practice, is leading the team in ice time with an average of 24:30 per game. He also led all Winnipeg blue-liners with 29 points in 32 games when he was sidelined.
"He looked good and he moved well. He got through practice. We'll meet (Tuesday) morning, see how he comes off the skate. It's the first practice he's had in an awfully long time, so unless he's feeling right on, we won't put him back in," said head coach Paul Maurice.
"But there's a pretty good chance he's banging on the door saying he's ready to go, because he's felt good for the last week."
A STAR TURN FOR ROSLOVIC: Jets forward Jack Roslovic was named the NHL's first star of the week after a superb stretch in which he scored five goals and six points in four games following the club's return from the all-star break.
On Saturday, Roslovic got his first career hat trick and an assist in a 9-3 thrashing of the Anaheim Ducks.
A MILESTONE FOR MAURICE: Maurice will become the sixth coach in NHL history to reach the 1,500-game plateau, joining Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders and Ken Hitchcock of the Edmonton Oilers as the only active men on the list.
Maurice, who got his first head coaching job in Hartford in 1995 at the tender age of 28, was asked what got him to this milestone.
"A long list of really, really talented people around me," he said. "Right from a courageous general manager (Jim Rutherford) who gave me a chance at 28, but more importantly mentored me right through those first four or five years. And we made the playoffs and built a program from a struggling franchise. And that would be true of just about every place I've been.
"I've had really good coaches, that we work well together in the room. And maybe some persistence and some faith and over the years I probably learned how to endure a little bit. And coach every day. So now we get to this point here, we've got a powerful young team with a good staff and a little bit of experience, so it's quite a bit more fun than it was 23 years ago, or whatever it was."
SECONDARY SCORING: A fourth line comprised of centre Andrew Copp, left-winger Brendan Lemieux and right-winger Mason Appelton has been buzzing lately, combining for seven goals and 14 points in their previous six games.
Those sorts of results make them hard to ignore.
"That’s what we talk about going into every game, don’t give (Maurice) a choice to not play us," said Copp. "Make him need to play us, basically. That’s kinda what we want to do."
The trio's good offensive production coupled with reliable defensive play is getting rave reviews.
"The real theme is respect what you're good at," said Maurice. "Adam Lowry's line is different than Mark Scheifele's line and they went a long stretch producing offensive-zone time and chances and scoring goals. Andrew Copp's line is the same idea. All three of those guys can be physical on the puck, but they've all got good hands. They all can do something with the puck.
"We're not telling them to dump the puck every time. We're telling them what they're really good at is going to get it. So if there's a play to be made, feel free, but don't slow down because none of the defencemen want to stay in too long. When Lemieux's coming down on you he's coming to finish that check."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Monday, February 4, 2019 at 8:41 PM CST: Adds photo
11:24 PM: updates story.