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Byfuglien out, Niku to pair with Chiarot for rematch against Senators

Sami Niku will take Byfuglien's spot on the blueline tonight. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)</p>

Sami Niku will take Byfuglien's spot on the blueline tonight. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

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This article was published 16/2/2019 (514 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dustin Byfuglien is banged up again, although an extended absence from the Winnipeg Jets lineup is not anticipated.

The veteran defenceman will miss tonight's game and Sami Niku takes his spot as the Jets battle the Ottawa Senators. Game time is 6 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.

Byfuglien came up lame Thursday after a battle in the corner with Colorado forward Mikko Rantanen. He missed a couple of shifts but did play the third period.

Jets coach Paul Maurice, whose club has just two wins in its last six contests, said the recent problem is not an aggravation of a lower-body injury that sidelined the big blue-liner for 15 games. He had just returned to the lineup last week in Montreal and has suited up for five games.

"It's another minor one that's not going to help the original one. The original one's fine enough to play. It's strong, it's getting stronger. But (the latest injury) set us up he wasn't going be able to perform very well, and we think in a few days he'll settle right in," said Maurice.

He expects Byfuglien to be ready to go Wednesday against the Avalanche in Denver.

Laurent Brossoit gets the start between the pipes for the hosts (36-19-3), who are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Avs. The Senators (21-31-5) are last in the NHL but carved out a solid 5-2 victory over the Jets a week ago in the nation's capital.

Tonight, Niku will play his first game since Jan. 28 in Philadelphia. He was a healthy scratch for seven and then was assigned to the Manitoba Moose last week. The young Finnish defenceman was recalled by the Jets on Friday.

"Sami's game when he came up was solid and good, and on a track that we understand in terms of style. He was moving pucks, skating pucks, using the skill set that he has to defend well through his speed, so we like the track that he's on. He's been good for us," said Maurice. "We haven't had to use him a lot because we've got a lot of depth back there. This is how those defencemen get their opportunity."

Niku will be paired with Ben Chiarot as the Jets try to retain top spot in the Central Division and a share of the lead in the Western Conference.

"I really like playing with (Chiarot). He's so good in the (defensive) zone and he helps me a lot. He talks a lot out there," said Niku, who will play his 12th game of the season tonight and just the 13th of his career. "You play with an older guy, it's important because he helps me a lot.

"I just want to play my own game, be fast, make good passes and be good in the D-zone."

Joe Morrow tweaked something in his leg in a fight Thursday with Avs forward Matt Calvert and is expected to be shelved for two to three weeks. Dmity Kulikov also returns to the Winnipeg blue line tonight.

Forward Nikolaj Ehlers (upper body) is still more than a week from returning to active duty.

The struggling Sens could move out a couple of key pieces prior the NHL trade deadline Feb. 25, including Winnipeg product Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, who share the team goal-scoring lead (26).

Ottawa didn't skate this morning, although coach Guy Boucher and a few players were made available to reporters at their downtown hotel.

Stone declined a request for an interview from several media outlets, including the Free Press.


Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
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).

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