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Beaulieu sheds no-contact jersey, eyes a return to Jets line-up

"Taking that yellow jersey off today was like Christmas for me." -Beaulieu

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

SAN JOSE - Nathan Beaulieu took the next step in his journey to getting back in the line-up on Thursday.

He shed the non-contact gold jersey he had been wearing since Friday's outdoor practice in Regina for a regular red jersey and was a full participant in Winnipeg Jets practice.

"Taking that yellow jersey off today was like Christmas for me," Beaulieu said with a grin.

Video: PRACTICE | Nathan Beaulieu

The 26-year-old was injured early in the third period during the final preseason game against the Minnesota Wild. Bryan Little's concussion also occurred in the same game, meaning the two did all they could to help each other get through the disappointment of going through training camp and not playing in the season opener.

"There is no good time to get hurt, but the beginning of the season is probably one of the worst," said Beaulieu. "Guys are getting up to speed and the first 10 games, you just try to get under your belt. Missing that is obviously difficult. When I get back in there, when I'm ready, I'll take it one shift at a time and be smart with it."

As another way to lift his spirits, the Jets brought Beaulieu along on the season-opening road trip through New York and Pittsburgh. He spent the majority of his time on the stationary bike to try and keep his endurance up, but he knows there is another step he has to take in that department.

"You can only ride the bike and work out so much. There is nothing like game shape," he said. "Playing games is the only way I'm going to get back up to speed. I know it's not going to be easy right away. I thought the guys weathered the storm on the back end really well at the beginning of the year and I'm really excited to get back in there and contribute."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Beaulieu had five points in 18 games with the Jets after coming to Winnipeg from the Buffalo Sabres at last season's trade deadline.

He signed a one-year contract worth $1-million on July 1 with the Jets and has appreciated the club's patience and transparency during the injury.

"I've trusted everyone in this organization since the moment I got here. I know where I stand every day. I know the opportunity is there," Beaulieu said. "Once I'm ready it will be given to me. I still really believe in this group and what we've got going - a lot of really good young players."

It's unlikely that Beaulieu suits up against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, according to head coach Paul Maurice.

"His conditioning is good, but he's missed a month," said Maurice. "Because of his injury, a lot of it is hand work. He has to be right when we put him back in, but he's getting close."

While the wins haven't come as often as he or his teammates have liked 13 games into the season, he thinks this club has potential.

"We're in the back burner on teams' radars," said Beaulieu. "But I think we're a little scarier than some people think."

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