As the Jets took off for Nashville on Friday, they announced injuries to the defenceman and the centre.
Byfuglien will be out two to four weeks with an upper body injury. He sustained the injury on Wednesday as Winnipeg faced off against the Ottawa Senators.
“We’ll miss [Byfuglien],” head coach Paul Maurice said. “He is a force back there, for sure. We’ve dealt with a number of injuries on our back end. We have good people to put in the lineup, and they’ve played well and won games. [Byfuglien] is in the top end [among NHL defencemen], both what he can do physically and what he can do with the puck.”
Little, meanwhile, suffered an undisclosed injury in the same game and is expected to miss the first half of a four game road trip that commences Saturday when the Jets play the Predators. Eric O’Dell was called up to replace Little for the time being.
“It may be longer than this trip,” Maurice said of the injury to Little. “There’s a chance he plays toward the end of it. There is a chance we’ll know more in five to seven days on that.”
The Jets haven’t had a good year with injuries, to say the least. In December, they lost their top four defencemen in a two week period. Winnipeg also currently has Mathieu Perrault and Matt Halischuk on the IR, with Grant Clitsome gone for the season thanks to back surgery. As Blake Wheeler noted, “It’s almost weird when we’re all healthy.”
Winnipeg is in possession of the second wild card spot, but they’re tangled up with the Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks. Anything can happen between now and the post-season and the Jets are by no means a shoe-in for the playoffs, so they’ll have to navigate this road trip carefully.
Meanwhile, it’s time for some juggling. Maurice will bet on Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba to handle some of the extra ice time left behind by the injury to Byfuglien, while Adam Pardy and Paul Postma could also see more time.