WINNIPEG - Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will have plenty of time to change diapers and miss out on sleep for the next little while.
Byfuglien’s girlfriend, Emily Hendry, gave birth to a daughter, Kira Rae, on Wednesday night in Winnipeg. She weighed seven pounds and one ounce, according to Jets head coach Claude Noel.
“It’s good for him,” Noel said. “We’re all happy. There’s a lot of joy in all our lives.”
The reason Byfuglien will be able to spend plenty of time with his new bundle of joy is because he is expected to be out at least another week with a lower-body injury that has been nagging him for a while and finally caused him to miss his first game of the season on Tuesday night in Denver.
Byfuglien won’t be in the lineup on Thursday night at MTS Centre when the Jets (17-14-5) host the L.A. Kings (18-14-5), and he won’t play on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, either. Winnipeg’s next game after that is on Wednesday in Montreal. Mark Flood will play his second straight game in Byfuglien’s place on Thursday night.
“You gotta give credit to a guy like Mark Flood who comes in,” Noel said. “He’s not going to be a Dustin Byfuglien, but our whole group picks up and helps out. We moved the puck well (on Tuesday). Buff’s a special player. He does some special things that make him a good player for us. We don’t replace him, but Mark Flood is a guy that comes in and I thought he played a real good game in Denver and our defence corps doesn’t really miss a beat.
“Where you’d really miss Buff is in the shots. When you’re getting six shots and 12 shots a game (from him), your shot totals are down from 30 to 22 and you’re wondering why. Well, he gets the majority of them. And he’s got a heavy shot. The other thing, too, is if he gets six or seven shots a game, it’s not only his shot, it’s the secondary shot that gives you scoring chances. So you’re missing more than just his five or six shots.
“The other thing that Buff does well besides the way he plays is he can really handle other people’s weight. He can handle guys like (Jordan) Staal and guys like (Anze) Kopitar and those guys … (Mike) Richards. He can separate those guys off the puck, so you really miss that. We have other guys that can do it also, but I’m not sure that they do it as well and as consistently as he does.”
Jets centre Jim Slater will be a game-time decision after taking a skate in the ribs in the third period of Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. If Slater can’t go, Patrice Cormier, who was called up on Thursday morning from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, will play his first game for the Jets. His last NHL game was Feb. 17, when he suffered a concussion while playing with the Atlanta Thrashers. Cormier, who has nine goals and four assists in 28 games for the IceCaps, hasn’t played a game of any kind in 11 days.
“It was a long Christmas break. I’m fresh, so no excuses,” he said. “I can’t be thinking I’m not playing, so I gotta make sure I’m ready. If I’m in the lineup I’ll be ready to go.”
Chris Mason will get the start in net for the Jets, but he won’t be debuting his new equipment that features the team’s logo.
“They’re not ready yet,” Mason said. “Mostly the glove’s not ready. It takes a little while — for me, anyway.”
Mason is expecting plenty of push from the Kings, who are 3-0-1 under new head coach Darryl Sutter and blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 on Wednesday night.
“They’ve got some dangerous guys up front and on the point,” Mason said. “They’ve got a good goalie, and they’re playing well defensively.”
In other injury news, defenceman Randy Jones (upper body) could play on Saturday against the Leafs, but centre Bryan Little (foot) is coming along slowly and will miss his fifth straight game on Thursday.