It was a good news, bad news day for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.
The good news: Big Buff skated with teammates, a notable step in recovering from a knee injury that’s sidelined him since Christmas.
The bad news: He’s still unable to fully practice with the Jets, putting his All-Star Game participation in doubt.
These developments make for a precarious timeline over the next week. The All-Star Game is set for Sunday, Jan. 29 — nine days from now — and Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel is trying to balance the All-Star appearance with getting his top-scoring defenseman back in the lineup.
“He’s a little ways… he’s got to start practising with us a little bit first,” Noel told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I think he might skate with us, get some ice time with us, then we’re trying to toss around bringing him with us [on a two-game road trip to Carolina and New York], to get him on the ice and get going.
“The next question is the All-Star situation. I’m not quite sure where that lends itself. He needs to play a game or two in my estimation to be able to play in the all-star game, so that might be up in the air.”
Noel said his preference is that Byfuglien’s “100 percent or close” before taking part in the ASG and basically demanded Buff return to the Jets lineup before playing in Ottawa.
All-Star attendance aside, the Jets are keen to get Byfuglien back in the lineup as they continue to push towards the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. After a slow start to the season — Buff had just four points in October and finished minus-5 — he’s rebounded nicely, registering 20 points in his last 24 games played, and remains one of Winnipeg’s biggest workhorses, averaging over 23 minutes of ice time per game.