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Two defencemen with a combined seven games of NHL experience will be making their 2018-19 debuts for the Winnipeg Jets.

Defencemen Sami Niku and Cam Schilling, both recently recalled from the AHL's Manitoba Moose, are likely to be paired together when the Winnipeg Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks at Bell MTS Place tonight.

Niku was already practising with the Jets when Schilling was hastily recalled Wednesday afternoon. Schilling's recall was made necessary by a lower-body injury to Joe Morrow and ongoing concern about Dustin Byfuglien's condition.

Byfuglien left Tuesday's game against Pittsburgh after a high-speed collision with Penguins blue-liner Jamie Oleksiak. Byfuglien passed the necessary baseline tests as part of the concussion protocol and eventually returned to the game but did not practise Wednesday or appear at Winnipeg's morning skate today.

"There's no diagnosis yet on how to go forward," said Jets head coach Maurice, adding Byfuglien began experiencing symptoms Wednesday afternoon and will be undergoing further medical testing today.

Using the 22-year-old Niku, last season's AHL defenceman of the year but with only one regular-season game under his belt, and Schilling in tandem is a logical step.

"That's a real option for us," said Maurice. "We may ease them into the game with a different partner but that's the place we may go."

Schilling, a 30-year-old who last played in the NHL for the Washington Capitals in 2014-15, has been through a whirlwind 24 hours. He was in San Diego with the Moose when he got a call to return to Winnipeg and arrived in town at 12:30 a.m.

"To be honest, I don't know much," Schilling said following Thursday's morning skate. "I think I may be playing with Sami, but I don't know, they haven't told me much."

Sami Niku was already practising with the Jets. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)</p>

Sami Niku was already practising with the Jets. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

Schilling and Niku were both AHL all-stars in 2017-18 and frequent blue-line partners with the Moose.

"We have some good chemistry. We played together last season... probably half the season," said Schilling. "We know each other, we know what we like to do. We should pick up right where we left off."

The career AHLer played one game for the Caps in each of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and four more in 2014-15.

"It's just another game," he said. "I'm older, I've been through many seasons in pro. Obviously any time you play in the NHL is great.... Not saying this is going to be comfortable tonight, but each year you get a little more experience and a little more comfortable."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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