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Another injury means more adversity for Jets blue line this season

Dahlstrom will miss a minimum of six weeks with a broken bone in his hand

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Another day and another injury on the Winnipeg Jets blue line.

Carl Dahlstrom will miss at least six weeks after breaking a bone in his hand during the 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

"He came rolling out of the corner, gapped up on a guy, it was a kind of a partial hit or a bump. His hand just rolled," said head coach Paul Maurice. "That's him telling us because we couldn't really see it on the video."

Dahlstrom was playing in his first game since January 4 and had picked up an assist - his first point as a member of the Jets - prior to getting injured.

"It hurts for him obviously, but for yourself as well. You've gone to the guy a bunch of times and give him the 'hang in there' speech and give him the 'hey work on these things,'" said Maurice. "You go through the video of the game and he was wired in and focused and saw it as an opportunity. He hasn't had a whole lot of opportunity to play here. We've played other guys in front of him. It's a heartbreaker for him, for sure."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Luca Sbisa didn't even see the play occur. He had stopped by the training room in between periods for his own reasons and when came back, Dahlstrom had all his gear off.

"It's tough to see. It happened on a nothing play almost, the way he described it," said Sbisa.

"I'm like 'what are you doing?' He said 'I broke my hand.' I was like 'How? When?' It's tough to see. I thought he had a really good game. A guy like him, he wants to make the most of his opportunities and he was doing just that."

It was the second consecutive game that the Jets had finished with five defencemen and in practice on Thursday, the pairings had shifted yet again.

Sbisa was paired with Anthony Bitetto, Neal Pionk with Sami Niku, and Josh Morrissey with Dmitry Kulikov - who was back practicing after missing Tuesday's game with the flu.

Despite the moving around and changing of partners due to the enormous amount of injuries this season, Maurice feels every player on the blue line contributes to the identity of their group.

"Every one of them has found a way to do what they do really well as their number one thing," Maurice said, using the example of Niku who moves the puck really well, but may not be as physical as Bitetto or Sbisa.

"Those are physical guys and they're blocking shots. They've taken some bruises on those blocks. They're not going to move the puck like Sami, but Sami isn't going to block shots and battle like those guys.

"They brought that mentality, this is what I'm good at, this is what I'm selling. If they all bring their strengths together, and we get really good goaltending, it's a pretty good mix back there."

The phrase 'Next Man Up' is often used in sports, but the Jets are really pushing the boundaries of it this season.

"On a daily basis you probably switch partners. You play left, you play right, stuff like that," said Sbisa. "We've had a lot of bad luck on the back end but the guys that have been playing have done a great job."

The full line rushes looked like this on Thursday, with Gabriel Bourque and Bryan Little (still in non-contact) rotating in:

Connor-Scheifele-Laine

Copp-Wheeler-Ehlers

Perreault-Lowry-Roslovic

Harkins-Shore-Appleton

Morrissey-Kulikov

Niku-Pionk

Bitetto-Sbisa

Regardless of injuries, the NHL schedule rolls on, as the Jets will complete a three-game home stand Friday night against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

Video: PRACTICE | Luca Sbisa

Tampa Bay plays in Minnesota Thursday night and heading into that tilt, the Lightning have won 11 of their last 12 games. During that stretch, they've scored the second most goals in the NHL (47) and have allowed the third fewest (23).

"They're a team that's playing really good hockey as of late. The stuff we worked on today was basically just creating more traffic in front of the net. Against a team like that, you want to control the puck in their zone," said Sbisa. "You want to get it deep and let our forwards do the work. Once we have possession, we want to get to the net pretty quick."

The Jets won the first meeting of the season with the Lightning by a score of 4-3 on November 16. Winnipeg's defencemen combined for four points that night with Morrissey getting two assists, Sbisa and Tucker Poolman also picked up an assist each.

Morrissey and Pionk played over 20 minutes that night, but no Jets defenceman played less than 15 minutes. The six blue liners rallied together that night and have done so every night this season.

Maurice expects no different on Friday.

"We lose four of our six (defencemen) from last year. Neal has come in and solidified one of those holes, for sure," said Maurice.

"The rest of the guys walk in the room going 'Ray Bourque isn't here. I'm as good as the rest of these guys.' They all support each other in that. They do rally around each other. 

"It was the third or fourth day of training camp and Bitetto stops Mark Scheifele and starts beaking him about it and everybody is looking around. That's the way it used to be. All the guys in red sweaters in practice, when they knocked a puck down or stopped a rush they were cheering for each other. They became their own little team with their goaltender too."

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