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Jets announce injured defenceman Mark Stuart is out until February

NHL.com @NHL

WINNIPEG - Paul Maurice has seen a lot of things during his lengthy coaching career, but nothing quite like what's happening to the Winnipeg Jets' defensive corps.

Maurice announced after Thursday's practice that veteran defenceman Mark Stuart has a lower-body injury that will keep him out of the lineup until February.

Stuart joins injured top defencemen Jacob Trouba, Zach Bogosian and Toby Enstrom.

Later in the afternoon, the Jets acquired veteran defenceman Jay Harrison from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Ottawa's sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft, which had been acquired by Winnipeg at the 2014 draft.

Maurice has coached more than 1,000 games in the NHL and said he's never seen such a rash of injuries to defencemen at the same time, but the team has no choice but to roll with it.

"It's the same line I gave two, three days ago ? this is our adversity. This is what we have to deal with," he said. "Every team will have their stretch.

"I haven't been in a situation where I've seen that number of guys that play at that level of your depth chart (out) for such an extended period of time. You can get into runs where you've got one or two of your top four out, but two or three games. But this is quite a bit more significant."

Maurice said Stuart's injury occurred during a fight with Buffalo winger Nicolas Deslauriers late in Winnipeg's 5-1 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday.

Trouba was shut down earlier this week with an undisclosed "pre-existing condition" that will also keep him off the ice until February. he was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Sunday.

Enstrom (lower body) last played Nov. 23 and could be back skating in early January, while Bogosian (lower body) was injured Dec. 3 and may start skating in mid-January, Maurice said.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said trade talks began after Trouba's injury and the need to make a move was "solidified" after Stuart's injury.

He also had to keep in mind the NHL has a Christmas roster freeze starting Friday at midnight through Dec. 27.

Winnipeg's depleted defensive corps was also something he hasn't witnessed before.

"It has been something that everyone that I've talked to on the phone at the other end, on the GM side, is kind of shaking their heads and saying, 'Wow, what's going on there?' " Cheveldayoff said.

But he sees the situation as an opportunity for players to get their chance to step up.

"You could look at it and say, 'Oh woe is us,' or you could say, 'Let's try and take a kick at this and see what happens,'" he said.

"We've got a tough schedule ahead of us, there's no question about it, but it is something that, again, as a group these are why these guys play. They want bigger opportunities and they want bigger roles and these guys are going to get it."

Harrison, 32, has played 337 NHL games over 10 seasons with Toronto and Carolina, where he was familiar with Maurice when he coached the Hurricanes.

Harrison played 20 games for Carolina this season with a goal and three assists. He was on his way to Winnipeg to try to practise with the Jets (16-10-6) on Friday and maybe play that night against the Boston Bruins (16-13-3).

Jets defenceman Julien Brouillette, who was called up from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps on Dec. 4., said he's ready to step in if needed. He practised in a pairing with Grant Clitsome, who just returned from injury for the Buffalo game.

Winger Dustin Byfuglien was already moved back to defence after Bogosian's injury.

Captain Andrew Ladd also hasn't seen so many injuries to players at one position during his 600-plus NHL games.

"We've got a lot of depth at that position in the organization," Ladd said. "We've handled it well so far and we'll need to keep doing it."

Adam Pardy said it was hard watching his fellow defencemen drop one by one in such a short time frame.

"It's a little lonely on this side of the dressing room, that's for sure, when you've only got a couple guys," Pardy said.

"It's tough, you know, seeing all those guys go down at the same time. It's going to be a little bit of adversity for us in the back end, but we've got a lot of guys that can play."

Starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec said the blue-line injuries won't add pressure to himself or backup Michael Hutchinson.

"You've got to be sharp every game," Pavelec said. "As a goalie on every team, it doesn't make any difference in your game.

"What I'm doing is just focus on myself and I trust the guys they do their job and everything is going to be fine. They're great hockey players."

Forward Evander Kane didn't practise Thursday, but Maurice said he's fine and will play against Boston.

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