October 21, 2018

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Poolman out with Buff back

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/1/2018 (291 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE return of veteran defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is good news for the Winnipeg Jets, even if they were able to get by without their highest-paid player.

Byfuglien, who is in the second year of a five-year deal worth an average of US$7.6 million per season, returned to the lineup Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. The Jets were without the big blue-liner for 10 games due to a lower-body injury but managed a 6-3-1 record over that stretch.

While Byfuglien being in the lineup gives head coach Paul Maurice the opportunity to better manage the minutes on the back end — Byfuglien was averaging a team-high 23:40 minutes of ice time per game before his injury — it meant someone had to come out.

The odd man out is rookie defenceman Tucker Poolman, who despite being in his first year in the NHL has played admirably. So well, in fact, that some believe he doesn’t deserve the hand he’s been dealt.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/1/2018 (291 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE return of veteran defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is good news for the Winnipeg Jets, even if they were able to get by without their highest-paid player.

Byfuglien, who is in the second year of a five-year deal worth an average of US$7.6 million per season, returned to the lineup Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. The Jets were without the big blue-liner for 10 games due to a lower-body injury but managed a 6-3-1 record over that stretch.

While Byfuglien being in the lineup gives head coach Paul Maurice the opportunity to better manage the minutes on the back end — Byfuglien was averaging a team-high 23:40 minutes of ice time per game before his injury — it meant someone had to come out.

The odd man out is rookie defenceman Tucker Poolman, who despite being in his first year in the NHL has played admirably. So well, in fact, that some believe he doesn’t deserve the hand he’s been dealt.

But with Josh Morrissey and Jacob Trouba arguably one of the best defensive duos in the NHL, and Dmitry Kulikov and Tyler Myers playing some of their best hockey in recent weeks, there were few options. Ben Chiarot, of course, was a possibility but with Poolman a right-handed shooter, switching him to his off side wasn’t something the team wanted to do, even if Poolman has played there before.

Maurice noted ahead of Tuesday’s tilt with the Avs, it’s a necessary evil of the game.

"The decision is not hard. We’re going to put a real good player in that lineup," said Maurice. "But in terms of fairness, it’s not easy to go to a guy where you don’t have any issues with his game.

"But that’s a first-year player and we’re very positive where Tucker is at. He’s sat out blocks (of games), gone down to the American League. He’s come back and is better than he was the first time through and understands the game a little more. Learning the game as a defenceman takes some time but we’re really pleased with where he’s at."

With Byfuglien out, Poolman got his first taste of the NHL after missing the previous 24 games, eight of which he spent with the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League.

Over the last 10 games with the Jets, the 24-year-old had just one point — his first NHL goal in a 5-2 road loss to the New York Islanders — but was playing well on a third pairing with Chiarot, logging at least 10 minutes in all but one game. One of his more underrated contributions was his ability to get pucks to the net; Poolman had 13 shots while Byfuglien was out.

"It’s true of teenagers, the world revolves around them and as you get a little older you understand what’s going on, so you can explain it to them," said Maurice. "Tucker understood that when Dustin was coming back in, if we were healthy and playing well he’d be the guy out on the right side. So having a little bit of awareness of what’s going on around you makes it a little easier conversation."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @jeffkhamiltonw

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