Jets aren’t looking to trade Dustin Byfuglien, who still hasn’t been charged with BWI

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Plenty of players had “breakthrough” seasons in 2010-11, but few have futures that are tougher to peg than Dustin Byfuglien’s next campaign. Simply put, there aren’t a whole lot of players who can compare to the feast-or-famine approach that the hybrid defenseman brings to the Winnipeg Jets.

Byfuglien is primed to enter the first year of a five-year contract that will register a $5.2 million annual cap hit (although his salary will be $4.25 million in 11-12). That signing was actually one of the last moves of the Atlanta Thrashers’ era, which makes it easy to wonder whether the Jets management team is fully behind the oversized blueliner. The fact that he’s dealing with an embarrassing legal situation that remains unsettled cannot really help matters, either.

While those criticisms seem reasonable, Winnipeg Free Press reporter Gary Lawless doesn’t think that the team will try to trade the 2011 All-Star.

Dustin Byfuglien is a big part of the picture for the Winnipeg Jets and they won’t be trading him despite some of the talk orbiting around the team right now.

A league source told the Free Press this week the Jets are not interested in offers for Byfuglien and he’s fully expected to be in Winnipeg when main camp begins a week from today.

Despite the bad press surrounding the talented defenceman there’s absolutely no impetus for the club to make a deal from a position of weakness.

There was an expectation that Minnesota officials would make a decision shortly after Labor Day regarding whether or not they’ll charge Byfuglien with a BWI or something else related to that recent incident, but charges haven’t been made yet. Lawless writes that the lack of a charge (so far) might be an “optimal outcome” for Byfuglien and the Jets.

While people will probably add the charges to their Byfuglien heckling repertoire (along with the requisite fat jokes), Paul Friesen reports that the big blueliner will still command respect from his teammates.

In the first reaction from a teammate to the star defenceman’s arrest on suspicion of boating while impaired, veteran goalie Chris Mason says there’s no reason Big Buff won’t continue to be a leader and key contributor on the Jets.

“No reason, whatsoever,” Mason told the Sun, Friday. “Anyone that I’ve ever known has made mistakes, small or big or whatever they may be. I’m a strong believer in redemption and being able to prove yourself.

“I know the kind of guy he is. He’s going to do everything he can to redeem himself. He’ll still be a huge contributor, leadership-wise and on the ice for our team.”

Byfuglien and the Jets probably hope that they’ll see more of the 2010 version of Byfuglien (Stanley Cup winner, high-scoring defenseman) than what they’ve seen from the 2011 model so far (second half slump, weight and legal issues). Such a turnaround might not curb all the one-liners from opposing fans, but maintaining respect from his teammates is more important than silencing snarky comments.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.

Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim

Report: IIHF needs NHL’s Olympic decision by end of April

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The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.

From TSN.ca:

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”

Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.

Read more: Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.

(In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)

Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”

Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

“It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

Elsewhere…

— The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

— It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

— After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

— Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

— In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.