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Byfuglien, Kulikov return to practice as Jets prepare for Blues

Copp, Morrissey, Morrow miss Thursday's practice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Paul Maurice was hopeful that when the Winnipeg Jets returned home after a three-game road trip through the New York area that the team's health on the blue line would be improved.

Sure enough, that was the case on Thursday.

Both Dustin Byfuglien (concussion) and Dmitry Kulikov (upper body) were in full contact jerseys from the 45-minute skate. In addition, they were both taking part in the line rushes.

"He's a big part of our team, a big part of the locker room, and one of the best players in the league," Chiarot said of seeing his defensive partner Byfuglien back on the ice. "Any time you add him back, it's a welcome sight."

Video: PRACTICE | Ben Chiarot

Maurice said he'll wait and see how both Byfuglien and Kulikov come back to the rink on Friday prior to declaring them players for the home stand opener against the St. Louis Blues.

The team isn't quite back at full health, as Josh Morrissey - who missed the road trip finale against the New York Islanders with a lower-body injury - didn't take part in practice. Fellow defenceman Joe Morrow continues to deal with a lower-body ailment, while Andrew Copp also remains out.

"I don't have Joe in for tomorrow. We'll see how the other two guys come in tomorrow," Maurice said of Morrissey and Copp, adding that Copp is feeling better after missing the Islanders game.

"He's back pushing himself in the weight room so we're just going day to day until he feels real good."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

The 21:28 Chiarot played against the Islanders was his second highest of the season. He said with the number of veterans injured on the blue line, a game like the defensive corps played against the Islanders is something to build on.

"It makes the guys who have been here a while a little more aware and want to elevate their game and help out the guys that are just stepping in the line-up," said Chiarot. "The veteran guys did a nice job of that. The young guys - (Nelson Nogier), (Cam Schilling) and Sami (Niku) did a great job stepping in and playing a team that has been playing well in the Islanders, and a team that plays a good system."

With Byfuglien and Kulikov back in the fold, the Jets line rushes looked like this:

Ehlers-Scheifele-Wheeler

Connor-Little-Laine

Tanev-Lowry-Perreault

Lemieux-Roslovic-Appleton

Niku-Trouba

Chiarot-Byfuglien

Kulikov-Myers

Schilling-Nogier

This was Kulikov's first full practice as a regular participant since he sustained his injury in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 9.

The 28-year-old had just spent the full off-season recovering from back surgery, and Maurice said Kulikov was playing his best game since his return when the injury occurred.

"You can't do anything about it. You just have to wait and let the body heal," Kulikov said. "You just go into a place where you don't think about how long it's going to be, you just focus on day by day and once you look back it's already been two or three weeks and you're over the halfway point."

Video: PRACTICE | Dmitry Kulikov

The three wins the Jets picked up on the road have pushed them to 17-8-2 on the season, and four straight wins overall.

Maurice would like to see some of the lessons carried from the road trip into the upcoming home stand.

"You've got to accept the game that's being played. It's not just about your team. We have an identity and want to play a certain way. But the game the other team plays impacts how it's going to be played," said Maurice.

"It takes maturity to do that. We've got a bunch of guys that can score some goals, move the puck, and skate well. You'd like for it to look like that every night, but the other team doesn't allow it.

"All nine periods we played were right. They looked a little bit different, but we accepted each game."

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