WINNIPEG - Bryan Little returns to the line-up tonight when the Winnipeg Jets take on the New Jersey Devils.
Little, 29, was injured in the Oct. 13 home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes after just 2:48 of ice time, and has missed the past 23 games.
But it feels like much longer than that for Little, who also missed the final 25 games of last season with a neck injury.
"I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure it's going to take a bit to get back into the swing of things," said Little, who will play on a line with Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford tonight. "My goal is to try and get back and get up to speed as fast as I can."
In Little's mind, the best way to do that is to play a simple game, and take advantage of the parts of the game he knows he does well - the first of those being face offs.
"It's something I feel I can be good at right away again," said Little, who was winning over 51 percent of his draws prior to his injury last season. "I see the guys working on it every day. They're talking to the coaches, they're watching video, and practicing in practice. We're all communicating, trying to get better as a group at them."
Video: PREGAME | Bryan Little
As a team, the Jets sit 30th in the NHL in face off percentage, winning just over 44 percent.
But head coach Paul Maurice says having Little back helps just as much with line matching as it does with face offs.
"It changes the way other teams look at ours now. Without him in the line-up, we're sort of easy to pick apart," Maurice said. "They'll run a checking line against (Mark) Scheifele or (Blake) Wheeler.
"Now, there's two lines that have an awful lot of offensive confidence, and then a decision has to be made. One of them is going to get checked, the other is probably going to face the other team's best, and at home, I have that option with Adam Lowry. It gives us a lot more options off the bench."
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
Speaking of the other team's best, New Jersey will be without one of their best tonight. Taylor Hall is practicing, but still is not fully recovered from a torn meniscus.
Despite missing seven games, Hall still sits third on the Devils in points with 12 in the 14 games the winger has played.
"We haven't seen a whole lot of them yet," Blake Wheeler said of the Devils. "With our schedule, we kind of are just trying to stay afloat ourselves. So it's been tough to really pre-scout many teams.
"But from playing them in the past, and the glimpses we have seen of them, extremely quick. They play a really fast paced game. So it's going to be a track meet for sure."
Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler
Puck drop is 7 pm.
LATE HITS: Mathieu Perreault continues to progress toward a return, as he participated in today's morning skate without a non-contact jersey.
"He's been off the ice a little more, so we need to make sure his legs are right," said Maurice. "He got a real good (skate) today, he'll get another tomorrow, then we'll start talking about where he'll fit."
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
Video: PREGAME | Mark Scheifele
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets continue a three-game homestand tonight against the New Jersey Devils, who are making their only trip to MTS Centre this season…The Jets opened the homestand on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 shutout over the Nashville Predators…Drew Stafford scored the game-winning goal on Sunday, while Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry scored empty net goals and Jacob Trouba had two assists…Winnipeg finishes the homestand on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
After five games on the road and 10 of 13 games away from home in November, the Jets returned the MTS Centre this week where they have won four in a row…The Jets are 7-4-0 at home this season and have outscored their opponents 35-26 on home ice…Winnipeg is clicking at 18.4% (9-for-49) on the power play at home, compared to 9.1% (3-for-33) on the road…The Jets are in a stretch of five of seven games at home.
Helle Heats Up
Connor Hellebuyck has started the last four games for the Jets, during which he has stopped 127 of 137 shots for a .927 save percentage…He's increased his season save percentage to .915, which is nearly back to his career mark of .917…Hellebuyck has earned the shutout in two consecutive starts at home and hasn't allowed a goal at MTS Centre in the last 132:02 he's played…He's 4-0 in his last four home starts and is second in the NHL in month of November at home with a 1.38 goals-against average and .959 save percentage…Hellebuyck's 42 saves on Sunday was one less than Chris Mason's franchise record of 43 saves in a shutout, which happened Mar. 31/11 at PHI.
Andrew Copp continued his strong play in the face-off circle on the weekend, winning eight of nine face-offs in the two games against Nashville for an 88.9% win percentage…Copp has won 11-of-18 face-offs he's taken in the last four games, which is good for a 61.1% win percentage.
The Jets are 6-7-2 in November, during which they have played a league-high 15 games in 27 days…Winnipeg has surpassed the four games they won all of last November when they earned the least of amount of points in the NHL during that month with a 4-9-1 record (nine points)…Prior to last season, the Jets franchise had a .500 or better points percentage in November for 11 straight seasons.
- The Jets lead the NHL with 142 power play shots.
- Winnipeg is a perfect 7-0 when leading after the second period.
- The Jets are 1-for-16 (6.3%) on the power play in their last six games…Blake Wheeler's power play goal on Wednesday against Minnesota is the only goal the Jets have scored on the power play in their last six games.
- The Jets have outscored their opposition 32-22 in the third period and overtime…The 32 goals for leads the NHL this season.
- The Jets have been outscored 32-14 in second periods this season.