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This article was published 19/12/2016 (1154 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Alexander Burmistrov hasn't played in two weeks and feels like a forgotten man.
The Winnipeg Jets centre has been a healthy scratch for the NHL team's last five games and has dressed for only three of the last dozen contests.
After a pair of home-ice victories by Winnipeg Thursday and Sunday, there’s no reason to think the 25-year-old Russian will slot in against the Canucks in two games in three nights today and Thursday at Vancouver's Rogers Arena.
Complicating matters is the imminent return of forwards Shawn Matthias, Joel Armia and Nic Petan, who have missed duty because of injuries. All three took part in Monday's full workout, and head coach Paul Maurice said at least one of the trio could play out west before the club breaks for Christmas.
Burmistrov is clearly frustrated and unsure about his future.
Burmistrov, speaking after the Monday morning skate at MTS Centre, is noticeably frustrated with his current predicament and confused about his future with the organization.
"You know, I feel great, working hard — watching games," said Burmistrov, who has just two assists in 23 games this year and is a minus-six. "It’s tough, tough for me because I do not know why I’m not playing, you know. I never have a conversation with the coach, so he never tell me why I’m not playing."
Has he broached the subject with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff?
"No, if they doesn’t want to talk to me, sure," said Burmistrov, adding he fully expects to occupy a seat in the press box in Vancouver.
"I mean, the team’s winning so I don’t think they’re going to change it."
Maurice disagreed with Burmistrov's assessment of the situation, saying he has indeed talked with the player about his current role with the Jets, now 15-16-3 after nipping the Florida Panthers 4-3 in a shootout Thursday and then dumping the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Sunday afternoon.
"Every day. We’ve had conversations," said the coach. "There’s conversations that we’ve had that I didn’t invite you in on and you’re not getting any more than that.
"We both have a pretty clear understanding of where he’s at."
Burmistrov was scratched for the Jets season-opener Oct. 13 against the Carolina Hurricanes but then played 20 of the next 21, missing just one game in mid-November because of an upper-body injury.
Maurice opted to sit him for four games late last month then reinserted him into the lineup in St. Louis and Chicago — games the club won — and a home date with Detroit. The Jets lost 4-3 to the Red Wings in a shootout Dec. 6 and Burmistrov was a minus-two in just four minutes, 57 seconds of ice time. He hasn’t played since.
During training camp in late September, Burmistrov told the Free Press he was gunning for a top-six forward job with the Jets this season, a lofty goal for a guy who walked out on the team after the 2012-13 campaign and put in two unexceptional seasons in the KHL before being convinced by Maurice to return to North America in time for the 2015-16 season.
He dressed for 81 games last year, scoring seven goals and 14 assists while playing predominantly on the club’s bottom-six and the penalty killing unit.
That’s where he’s been slotted this season, along with the press box.
The former first-round (eighth-overall) pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2010 NHL Draft was somewhat of a fan favourite during that inaugural 2011-12 season in Winnipeg, but his NHL career has gone sideways.
"Not really good," said Burmistrov, when asked to assess his time in Winnipeg. "Just not the way I like to play. I don’t know, I can’t really explain it. It’s just going the wrong way right now and, you know, I just let the guys from up top do whatever they all gotta do."
Currently, the Jets have 22 bodies on their roster, including Burmistrov and defenceman Mark Stuart, who’ve both been on the outside looking in lately. With Matthias, Armia and Petan set to come off the injured reserve list, that number gets bumped to 25. The maximum the club can carry is 23.
Stuart is the seventh blue-liner and isn't going anywhere with Tyler Myers still out with a lingering lower-body injury.
Not unlike the final days of training camp, there are difficult decisions about the forward group to be made.
"We’ve got three forwards on (injured reserve), we’ve got one roster spot for them, so when everybody gets healthy there’s going to be a bunch of guys not in the lineup," Maurice said. "Now, we’re going to carry seven D so you can carry two extra forwards, but there’s not room for everybody."
Forwards Marko Dano and Andrew Copp have been solid contributors since they were called up from the Manitoba Moose during an ugly streak of injuries in early November, and a demotion to the American Hockey League for either seems unlikely.
Sending down Petan, still on an entry-level deal that doesn't require exposure on the waiver wire, seems logical. Sending down Burmistrov, in the final year of a two-year deal that pays him $1.6 million before he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer, also makes sense, though he'd have to clear waivers.
Trading the talented but enigmatic 6-1, 180-pound forward might also be an option.
Any roster moves will have to wait until Dec. 27. The NHL froze team rosters at 10:59 p.m. CT Monday, and that means no trades, call-ups or demotions.
Beyond that, Burmistrov doesn’t know how long he’ll remain Winnipeg property.
"I’m here. I love being a Jet. I love the boys... being around the locker room. It’s not my decision," he said.
"I mean, I’m just happy for those guys getting ready, getting out of those injuries, coming back and playing for our team. If something is gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. I’m not going to say anything."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).