“Jets missing services of Little, Byfuglien,” no this is not to say that Dustin Byfuglien has lost 100 pounds during his recovery from injury, but rather the fact that his absence, along with forward Bryan Little, have really started to show through; and not in a good way for the Winnipeg Jets.
Although the Jets were able to rattle off three straight wins before 2011 ended, the club has since played very poorly in ugly road losses to Montreal and Toronto earlier this week. After climbing as high as seventh in the East, the two losses are sure to have reminded the Jets just how big of a challenge it will be to remain contenders in a very crowded conference.
A challenge that is even greater when presented with the task of playing without two of their top players.
Out with a foot injury since December 17, Little was Winnipeg’s hottest forward before his injury and the line of Little, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane was becoming a handful for even the best of opposing defences to handle. Since he went on the shelf, Kane and Wheeler have continued to play well and Tim Stapleton has admirably filled in, but the club is badly missing the depth that a top line player like Little provides.
While the effects of a forward with the speed and scoring ability of Bryan Little is sorely missed, it does not compare to what the Jets are missing without Byfuglien on the back-end.
The big man’s defensive play has been criticized all season long but one thing no one questions is his ability to create offense. Whether it comes from his bomb of a point shot, his puck-possession skills or his very underrated vision and playmaking, Byfuglien is a top notch offensive-defenceman who’s presence is now more than ever proving to be invalubable to the team’s success.
Without Little and Byfuglien the Jets were still able to draw upon their impressive play on home ice, but even in the wins you could sense that without these two pieces, they were only delaying the inevitable struggles they would face in a slew of upcoming road games.
With no time-table to a return for Byfuglien’s lower-body injury, the Jets could possibly have Little back for tonight’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres, but caution might keep him out for at least one more game.
As they have done in every game they’ve played without two of their best players, the Winnipeg Jets will continue to put on a brave face and push forward, but it is becoming increasingly hard to hide just how much they miss them.