WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have already lost 108 man games to injury so far this season, but help could arrive as early as Tuesday in the form of centreman Bryan Little when the Jets host the New Jersey Devils.
“It’s nice to actually get in there with some lines and get some bumping and a real practice under my belt,” said Little.
Little took part in practice on Monday after missing the last 23 games.
“I can’t really test it much more other than to get back in a game and see how it goes and see how the unpredictable movements and plays happen and how that makes it feel,” Little said.
“He got through today, felt real strong,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “He’s been cleared for full contact. He’s been on the ice skating so if he comes back to the rink tomorrow feeling as strong as he leaves the rink today, then there’s a good chance he’ll be in the lineup.”
Little was injured in the Jets very first game of the season and he also missed the final 25 games last season with a fractured vertebrae. So overall he’s sat out 48 of their last 49 games.
“It was tough to stay positive for awhile,” said Little. “I’ve been pretty lucky mostly my whole career. I’ve avoided some major injuries and only had some bumps and bruises so to have your two worst ones kinda back to back like that, it was extremely frustrating.”
Finally having a healthy Little in the lineup should improve the Jets poor numbers in the face-off circle. The Jets currently rank dead last in the NHL with a 44.4 percent success rate at the face-off dot.
“Oh my. Running the bench it changes everything you do,” said Maurice. “We’ve got two of our top three centreman out of the lineup. It changes a lot of what you do, how you run your bench, what your wingers can get accomplished. I could go on and on about it but he’s coming back now, he’s played two and a half minutes in the last seven or eight months. So his first game, may not be first star. It’s going to take him a little while to get into the rhythm of the game.”
While Little could play on Tuesday, the Jets are now without Nic Petan who will miss at least a week after getting hurt in their win over the Nashville Predators. And there’s still no update on when Toby Enstrom could return after he went back home to Sweden last week to deal with a family matter.
“I think he’s gonna get very close to some answers here in the next day,” said Maurice. “And then make a decision on his return and it may be soon.”
Mathieu Perreault is also getting closer to a return, currently practicing in a ‘no contact’ jersey. He could become a full participant in practice later in the week.
WATCH: Bryan Little and Paul Maurice discuss Little’s possible return to the lineup on Tuesday
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