WINNIPEG - During the grind of an 82-game season, the injury bug is bound to bite every NHL team.
It seems like that bug has chosen the Winnipeg Jets as the season nears the midway point.
With Dustin Byfuglien already out until after the All-Star Break, the Jets got more bad news on Saturday. Nikolaj Ehlers - who left Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first period, returned for one shift, then left for the remainder of the contest - will be out until early to mid-February with an upper-body injury.
"Every team is going to lose key guys," said head coach Paul Maurice.
"We may look a little bit different because of it, but it doesn't change what you'd like to think you're capable of doing."
Video: PRACTICE | Jack Roslovic
Ehlers has 15 goals this season, with 10 of those coming in the last 16 games - a stretch that included two hat tricks.
Saturday's skate at Bell MTS Place had Jack Roslovic on the right wing with Bryan Little and Patrik Laine.
"I've always said there is a lot of great players (on this team). It sucks when you get a player that happens to," Roslovic said regarding the injury to Ehlers. "In terms of taking on a bigger role for myself, you have to be ready and prepared when the time comes.
"I'm going to try and stay here as long as I can and try to make the most of it. Bring my speed to the game and try to make something happen."
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
It's not the first time Roslovic has been on a line with Little. The duo, with Mathieu Perreault on the other wing, were together during the playoffs last season.
"He's a fast player. He can wheel out there. He's got some hands and some skill. It should be a good transition for me and Patty," said Little, who compared Roslovic to Kyle Connor.
"Roslovic has that kind of speed and skill in his game. I'm excited."
With Roslovic shifted to the wing, the Jets forward line rushes had a couple changes on Saturday:
For the right-handed shooting Laine, playing on the left wing will be a bit of an adjustment.
"I feel like I can create more space for myself from that side," said Laine. "From the right side I just kind of have the option to shoot it or toe drag or something. I have more options from the left side.
"It's going to take time to get used to it. I haven't played it in two-and-a-half years."
Video: PRACTICE | Patrik Laine
The Jets practiced for 30 minutes on Saturday, following the 4-0 loss to the Penguins. While the team has produced seven goals in the last six games, Maurice isn't focusing too much on the offensive side of the rink with his team.
The focus instead has been on being quicker with and without the puck, which will in turn create the offensive chances the Jets enjoyed during a previous stretch where they scored 27 times in five games in mid-December.
Maurice felt during that stretch the Jets hit on a lot of seam plays that created the chance to score those goals, but those chances have been tough to come by as of late.
"We've hit three or four teams since that time that have played exceptionally well or focused exceptionally defensively," said Maurice. "In those games, we're going to score goals like we did in Edmonton. We worked the puck hard low and got it back, then drove the net for a tip or a scrum to the net - those kind of plays. That's usually where you go when you're not putting the puck in the net a lot."
Video: PRACTICE | Bryan Little
Winnipeg faces off with the Dallas Stars on Sunday in a 4 pm CT start at Bell MTS Place. Five of the next six games will be on home ice, with Sunday's game being the second of four meetings between the two teams this season.
"We've lost three of four, so that's never good. But like we say, it's the ebbs and flows of the season. You have to be ready, it's going to happen sometimes," said Roslovic. "We're a good team and it happens to us. We just have to play our game, and our game is pace and speed. When we're doing that we're a dangerous team and we just have to get back to it."