WINNIPEG – After missing the past 16 games with a lower-body injury, 20-year-old defenceman Jacob Trouba is on the verge of returning to the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup.
Paired with veteran Jay Harrison Tuesday at MTS IcePlex, No. 8 was back on defence, taking a regular turn in the rotation after spending the past week filling in for Bryan Little at forward.
(Little is currently not participating in practice- and game-day skates; "maintenance days," according to Head Coach Paul Maurice.)
“I feel good – ready to go,” Trouba said. “It’s out of my hands now, but I plan on being ready to play [Wednesday]. It’s up to the doctors and the coaches.
“You always want to get back as quick as you can. It’s tough not playing. It’s great that we’re (playing well) as a team, but you always want to get back in the lineup."
Trouba said the injury had been bothering him for a while before he was taken out of the lineup, and while he wanted to continue playing, it was important to step back and look at the bigger picture.
“I’m young and I’ve got a lot of hockey ahead of me, so I respected the decision,” he said. “We all thought it was best to stop playing for a bit.”
Trouba has not yet been cleared to play by the medical staff, but the ruling could come any time now.
“We’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Maurice said. “If he gets cleared, then he’s ready to go. He’s had enough good quality practice time. I have to check another defenceman – Mark Stuart (maintenance day) – and see where he’s at."
While Grant Clitsome remains out with a potentially season-ending back injury, the Jets have not had their full forces available to them since Nov. 23.
BUFF’S BIG HONOUR
Dustin Byfuglien was the recipient of some high praise Monday morning.
The defenceman was named as the NHL’s First Star of the Week on the strength of three goals, three assists and over 26 minutes per game in average ice time as the Jets soared to a 4-0-0 record, defeating the Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes.
“It’s an honour,” Byfuglien said. “Our team has been playing pretty good hockey of late, so I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
Added Maurice: “He’s playing at a really high level. Big minutes, production… Anything that we’d have to say Dustin has to improve on, we’d have to say about the group. He’s been as good as everybody else defensively and he’s been spectacular offensively.
“There’s never been a doubt that he’s a special player. He can really do whatever he sets his mind to.”
Byfuglien will represent the Jets this weekend at the NHL All-Star Game.
PERREAULT A NO-GO
Mathieu Perreault will not play again tomorrow night as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury suffered in last Friday’s win over the Blackhawks.
Perreault, who came into the night with 22 points in his last 19 games, was struck with a heavy-handed cross-check from Chicago forward Daniel Carcillo, forcing him from the game late in the second period.
“We’re hopeful that there’s been enough healing after the (All-Star) break that we can get him back in the lineup,” Maurice said.
Perreault has 15 goals and 29 points this season.
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com