It’s been an injury-riddled season for Nathan Beaulieu, who’s only played in 27 games. However, last night he scored his first goal of the season in the third period to help the Winnipeg Jets skate past the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2.
He must have been happy because, after the goal, he went through the mock actions of throwing the monkey off his back. The 27-year-old Beaulieu might also have been thinking of last season as well because it was the first goal he’s scored for the Jets since he was traded from the Buffalo Sabres last season at the trade deadline. In fact, his last goal was on November 27, 2018. In his eight NHL seasons (six with the Montreal Canadiens and two with the Buffalo Sabres and now the Jets) he’s scored 12 career goals in 359 games.
This win was a big one for the Jets, who are still hanging around in the playoff picture after a season where the team has patched together a solid-enough campaign given the circumstances surrounding its defense. The continuing saga of Dustin Byfuglien’s suspension and now contract termination is only one of several thorns in the team’s side.
As the Winnipeg Jets struggle to make the postseason playoffs, I want to help Jets fans keep up-to-date with what’s happening with the team.
Item One: Dustin Byfuglien and the Team Close to a Buy-out?
By the way, word is that Byfuglien and the team might be close to a contract buy-out. The 34-year-old defenseman has been suspended without pay all season for not reporting to training camp and had been considering retirement after undergoing ankle surgery in October. If the two sides can agree, right now that would benefit the Jets who would suddenly have $7.6 million in salary-cap space, which would allow the team to find a new defenseman (or even two for that money) at the trade deadline. Then, Byfuglien would be able to sign with another team should he choose.
Item Two: Bryan Little Has Been Shut Down for the Season
Sadly, Bryan Little’s 2019-20 season is finished. Little, whose eardrum has been injured, will sit for the rest of the season. Little will have surgery to help repair his perforated eardrum, and it should take about three months to recover from that operation. The bad news is that he’ll be out for the season, but the good news is that he should be fine to start the 2020-21 campaign.
It’s been almost a wasted season for the veteran center. Little has played in only seven games and will finish the season with five points.
Item Three: Andrei Chibisov Gets His First NHL Start
The Jets reassigned 26-year-old Andrei Chibisov to the AHL Manitoba Moose earlier this week and then recalled him yesterday for the game against the Blackhawks. He made his NHL debut and skated just over eight minutes. The 26-year-old Chibisov has 24 points in 47 games in the minors this season.
Item Four: Luca Sbisa Returns From His Injury
Prior to Friday night’s game, Luca Sbisa had missed the previous three games with a lower-body injury. But during both Friday and Sunday’s games, he played around 14 minutes. Fortunately for the Jets, the rugged Italian defenseman looked like his old self in both games. The 11-season veteran has scored two goals and 10 points this season in 43 games.
Item Four: Dmitry Kulikov Scores Two Assists in Blackhawks Victory
When Dmitry Kulikov scores that’s a rare thing for the Jets. When he scores more than one point in a game, that’s almost unheard of. Against the Blackhawks, the 29-year-old Russian scored two assists. It was his first multi-point game of the season and he now has nine points in 40 games.
Item Five: Mason Appleton Scores a Goal and an Assist
Mason Appleton scored a goal had a helper in the 3-2 win over the Blackhawks. Both his points came during the second period. The 24-year-old depth right-winger now has seven points in 35 season’s games. He played 36 games with the Jets last season and had 10 points in total.
What’s Next with the Jets?
It’s tough to say if the Jets will be buyers or sellers at this season’s trade deadline. The team has over-achieved this season, given all their difficulties. They currently remain a point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the last playoff spot.
But can they improve enough to move into a playoff spot? That’s the big question with this team. The next few weeks will say lots. The team has been riding Connor Hellebuyck hard as it hunts for a playoff spot. He’s been good and last night stopped all nine of the Blackhawks’ third-period shots. His season’s record is now 25-18-5, with a goals-against-average of 2.70 and a save percentage of .919 in 49 games. Expect the 26-year-old goalie to get most of the starts until the playoff picture has been decided.
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