December 13, 2019

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Rejuvenated Little giving Jets timely boost

Bryan Little tips in a goal past Calgary Flames' goaltender David Rittich in overtime of the Heritage Classic. Little has two goals and five points in six games since returning to the lineup after missing nine games because of a concussion. (Liam Richards / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Bryan Little tips in a goal past Calgary Flames' goaltender David Rittich in overtime of the Heritage Classic. Little has two goals and five points in six games since returning to the lineup after missing nine games because of a concussion. (Liam Richards / The Canadian Press files)

The Winnipeg Jets will be attempting to build on their two-game winning streak when the New Jersey Devils make their lone visit to Bell MTS Place tonight.

"I think we're all motivated to keep this on a roll right now because we haven't really had too much momentum going for us this season so far," Jets centre Bryan Little said Tuesday morning.

Little, who missed nine games to begin the season with a concussion, has two goals and five points in six games since returning to the lineup and has been integral to the club winning three of its last four games. The latest win was on Saturday when the Jets (8-7) rallied from a 3-1 deficit after 40 minutes to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime.

"I think we need to try to put that (third-period effort) together for a full game and especially the first period is key tonight," said Little.

Veteran defenceman Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday after missing Winnipeg's first 15 regular-season games. Meanwhile, blue-liner Tucker Poolman, who left Saturday's game in Las Vegas with an injury, will not play.

Head coach Paul Maurice said Poolman was undergoing further testing today.

"We'll be searching for speed here tonight," said Maurice of facing the 3-5-4 Devils. "That'll be the place that we're looking for indicators and you'll find that are we getting any hits that we're supposed to — not that we're running around the ice finishing checks — but are we getting to the man?

"It's going to be hand speed, are we moving the puck quick enough? So we've gotta have a lot of good quickness up front."

Little's return to health has been important to the Jets, Maurice said.

"When you have a youngish back end, you really rely on the centremen. They're basically part of it. So when Bryan's out or Adam Lowry's out, we really miss that low three coverage and he's so good there," he said.

"But he looks kinda rejuvenated, right? He's got lots of jump. He missed those games and we missed him for sure and I think defensively as much as offensively."

Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get the start in goal for Winnipeg tonight.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

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

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