Dmitry Kulikov will miss the remainder of the regular season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a back injury.
The Winnipeg Jets defenseman will have back surgery and will be re-evaluated in eight weeks. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the timetable means Kulikov likely won't return until at least the Western Conference Final, should the Jets advance there.
Winnipeg (42-19-10) is 10 points behind the first-place Nashville Predators in the Central Division and seven points ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild. The Jets host the Dallas Stars on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN, FS-SW, NHL.TV).
"That doesn't mean he's back in eight (weeks)," Jets coach Paul Maurice said Saturday. "The next report I'll give you is in eight. He had a reoccurrence of the injury he was dealing with [with the Buffalo Sabres] (last season). It didn't build. He was fine and then he wasn't. So we waited for the inflammation to go down."
Kulikov was hit into an open door by Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colin Greening in a preseason game with the Sabres last season, and the injury lingered since. He was limited to 47 games in 2016-17.
"There are a couple of different ways to do it, but everybody agreed in the end," Maurice said. "I don't know (if it's) the fastest, but certainly the best for the player long-term is to get it done and get it fixed."
Kulikov, who has missed the past four games, has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 62 games this season. He was injured March 8 against the New Jersey Devils.
"Very difficult for him in that he's been through it," Maurice said. "He's happy here. He's got a role here and we're playing well and it's something that he wants to be part of. The door's not closed now. He's got to get back and get healthy. This is a tough rehab because you don't do much early on and then you get after it pretty good and hopefully we're still playing hockey when he's ready to play."
Kulikov signed a three-year contract with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent July 1.