WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Winnipeg Jets are preparing to welcome a nearly point-per-game player to their line-up and it's not going to cost them a single draft pick.
Ordinarily, the addition of somebody of Bryan Little's ilk would require a nearly-blockbuster trade, but instead the Jets will merely activate him from injured reserve.
Little, 29, played all of four shifts this season before going down with a lower-body injury during the season-opener against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 13. He had been the team's No. 1 center since the Jets moved north from Atlanta in 2011, but a fractured vertebrae in his back late last season, which caused Little to miss another 25 games, enabled Mark Scheifele to move into that spot.
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Little practiced with the Jets Monday morning at the MTS Centre as they prepared to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. He pronounced himself fit to return to the line-up.
“If it was up to me, yes,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I feel pretty good. It was kind of my plan today to see if everything went well today. I feel comfortable playing. I can't really test it much more other than if I get back into a game and see how it goes. As of now, I haven't had any hiccups in the last couple of weeks.”
The Jets, who defeated the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Sunday, are hoping to continue making up ground during a three-game homestand, which concludes against NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. Prior to Sunday, they had lost five consecutive road games.
The Devils come to town in a similar predicament, having lost five out of six games, including two in a row, most recently a 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
They are also hoping to soon welcome back a first-line player – left winger Taylor Hall, who has been out since having arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on Nov. 16. He was expected to miss three or four weeks but now the word is he could be back in the line-up before this road trip is done. The Devils travel to Chicago for a game against the Blackhawks on Thursday and to Nashville to play the Predators on Saturday.
Hall practiced with the team at the MTS Centre on Monday, his first skate with his teammates since his injury, but isn't expected to play against the Jets.
“When I'm ready to play, I'll play,” he told The Record. “You look at the timeline they gave me 12 days out of surgery 1/8Monday 3/8, and I was skating at a week. I'm trying to build to get ready to play games here soon. I don't think I'm rushing anything. I'm not being pressured to play any quicker than I have to. ''d love to play at some point on the trip.”
The Devils currently sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 10-6-5 for 25 points. The Jets are sixth place in the Central Division with a record of 10-12-2 for 22 points.