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Jets shake up lines as they prepare for Blue Jackets

by Mike Battaglino

BLUE JACKETS (20-20-4) at JETS (19-22-5)


Last 10: Columbus 6-4-0; Winnipeg 4-6-0

Season series: Evander Kane returned after missing six games with a lower-body injury to score the game-winning goal in the Winnipeg Jets' 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 16. Kane will not play in this game because of a hand injury.

Big story: Winnipeg plans to use Dustin Byfuglien as its first-line right wing Saturday.

"I don't know if it's desperate," coach Claude Noel told the Winnipeg Sun. "You're trying to find ways to win. Dustin played last year a little bit up front, and was pretty hard to handle in some episodes of the game. He can be a guy that can have impact on the game."

The big defenseman has practiced up front the past two days and will play alongside left wing Andrew Ladd and center Bryan Little.

"[Byfuglien is] the kind of guy who can play any position out there," Little said Friday, according to The Canadian Press. "He's really offensively gifted and you know right now we really kind of need a spark."

Byfuglien did not speak to the media Friday. Defenseman Zach Redmond was recalled from the American Hockey League.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Columbus traveled to Winnipeg after a 3-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. This road game is one of three over the Blue Jackets' next 11, and one of two that isn't against an Eastern Conference opponent.

"Every point is important right now; it seems like every team in our (Metropolitan) division are finding ways to win," captain Brandon Dubinsky told Fox Sports Ohio. "So we have to keep pace and put ourselves a streak together here as we talked about the past couple of days and just keep going."

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to play again after making 36 saves Friday, his second game back after returning from a strained groin.

"[He] allows us to take chances that we usually wouldn't take, even though maybe we shouldn't take those chances," forward Cam Atkinson said. "But knowing he's on top of his game gives us a chance to win every single night and get the wins for him. ... He was a rock for us from the get-go and hopefully he can play this way tomorrow."

Jets: Byfuglien played forward for the Chicago Blackhawks before being used almost exclusively on defense since joining Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season. He has 10 goals and 24 assists this season, with those 34 points tied with Little for the team lead, and is minus-16.

"What I'm hoping to accomplish, not only with that line [but] with each line, is production, just positive production and hope we can move forward," Noel said.

With Kane out, the Winnipeg Sun reports Eric O'Dell could join the second line with Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik. Blake Wheeler moves from the first to the third line to play with Devin Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen.

"It can give some guys some life and some energy," Wheeler said. "You see some new faces and sometimes sparks fly."

Winnipeg, off since Tuesday, has lost four in a row after a three-game winning streak pushed the Jets over .500.

"I think you're trying to find ways to make a group and different ways to get the team going," Ladd said. "With four losses in a row, I think we'd be worried if you weren't trying different things."

Who's hot: Dubinsky has four points in a three-game streak. … Byfuglien has five points in the past four games. Scheifele has 13 points since Dec. 12 (14 games) after getting 10 in 32 games prior to that.

Injury report: The Blue Jackets placed forward Blake Comeau (sprained knee) on injured reserve Friday. Forwards Jared Boll (ankle), Marian Gaborik (collarbone) and Jack Skille (upper body) are out. … Jets defensemen Paul Postma (leg) and Grant Clitsome (undisclosed) and forwards Matt Halischuk (upper body) and Jim Slater (groin) are out.

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