BUFFALO - Bryan Little believes the pendulum is about to swing in his quest to snap one of the longest droughts of his pro hockey career.
The Winnipeg Jets centre is as surprised as most that he’s now gone 14 games to start the NHL season without scoring a goal and has only three assists to date.
But Little is not about to throw his hands up in frustration or wave the white flag in surrender.
“It’s been tough,” said Little, who was one of the Jets who hit the ice for an optional skate on Monday. “I feel like I’ve been playing better the past five or six games and I’ve been getting more chances lately. I’m just trying to do other things well. Play well in my own end, bear down on faceoffs and on the penalty kill. But it’s definitely frustrating when you start the season off like this. All I can do is keep shooting.”
Little and Blake Wheeler were both projected to be 20-plus goal scorers this season for the Jets and neither player has cracked the goose egg yet.
However, if Little can find a way to get one, he thinks the floodgates could open.
“You try not to be one of those (streaky) players but sometimes it happens,” said Little, who had 18 goals and 48 points last season for the Atlanta Thrashers and 31 goals and 51 points as a career-high in 2008-09. “Sometimes you go cold, sometimes you’re hot. I had a stretch last year when I went 14 or 15 games without scoring and then it happens and you get six or seven in five or six games. It’s funny how that happens.”
Clearly, the Jets need more production from Little and Wheeler, but head coach Claude Noel said he wasn’t entertaining the thought of sending a message by sitting either of them out as a healthy scratch right now.
The 5-7-2 Jets face the Buffalo Sabres, who are 8-5 and riding a two-game winning streak, on Tuesday (6 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN 1290) at First Niagara Center to close out a season-long seven-game road trip.
ANTROPOV READY: The official word might not come down until after the warm-up, but all signs point to Jets scoring leader Nik Antropov being back in the lineup on Tuesday.
Antropov, who missed the past two games with a hand injury, took part in the optional skate Monday.
“It was a really good day, I skated and was able to shoot the puck,” said Antropov, who has three goals and 11 points this season. “It wasn’t pain free but it’s a lot better than it was a couple of days ago. Anytime you’re out of the lineup, it’s not a good thing. I just want to be able to do everything I can on the ice, I want to be able to do 100% of the things I can do on the ice and in the last two games, I wouldn’t have been able to.”
Defenceman Randy Jones (foot) and Ron Hainsey (upper-body) won’t be ready to return for Tuesday’s game.
Goalie Chris Mason (groin) continues to progress and he could be ready to go against the Sabres or Thursday at home against the Florida Panthers.