Byfuglien off the pine for Jets?

Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien checks Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn at the MTS Centre in...

Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien checks Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Dec. 22, 2011. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 PM ET

TAMPA - Alex Burmistrov is good to go and Dustin Byfuglien looks like he might be, too.

Fresh off a 2-1 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in the first game back from the NHL All-star break, it looks like the Jets infirmary is another step closer to emptying out.

Burmistrov has passed his baseline test and is symptom free after sitting out the past two games with a concussion, while Byfuglien will be a game-time decision when the Jets face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

“Yeah, it should be close. I think I’m ready,” said Byfuglien, who has missed the past 16 games with a knee injury. “Everything is 100%. I don’t know if we’re in or out yet, but we’re getting the legs underneath me right now. I’m ready. I’m sick of sitting out and watching. It’s not the funnest thing to be doing, but you have to take care of yourself so you’re ready to go.”

Byfuglien, who hasn’t played since Dec. 23, said he’s finally adjusted to the knee brace he’ll need to wear for the foreseeable future.

“It’s feeling good, I really don’t notice it anymore,” said Byfuglien, who has six goals and 24 points in 35 games this season. “I’m pretty comfortable with it now.”

Despite playing some of his best hockey of the season prior to suffering the injury, Byfuglien understands that being out of action for roughly five weeks brings it’s own set of challenges.

“It feels like it’s been a long time,” he said. “Let’s just take it slow and let (the game) come to me. We’re going to have to start from scratch, like we’re coming into a new season, pretty much.”

Byfuglien isn’t concerned about the taxing nature of the schedule, which sees the Jets play three games over the next four days.

“Not really, it’s the time of the year where it’s going to be like that for the rest of the year,” said Byfuglien. “You have to get into it sooner or later.”

However, Jets head coach Claude Noel concedes that he’ll have to keep a close eye of Byfuglien to ensure he doesn’t overdo it whenever he comes back.

“You have to be intelligent with how things go,” said Noel. “He brings a lot of stuff. He’s a really smart defenceman and he can bring a lot of things offensively, defensively. He’s a strong, powerful man and there’s a lot he can do, but how much can he play?

“Is he a 24-minute player? I’d be hard-pressed to say he’s going to play that (much). I’m concerned with his minutes and we’ll be managing that and paying attention to what’s going on there. You have to watch and see how he’s doing.”

Burmistrov is also eager to return after suffering the first concussion of his hockey career late in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 23 when he crashed into the boards.

“For the first three days, I felt a little bit dizzy but right now, it feels good,” said Burmistrov, who has nine goals and 18 points in 45 games this season. “I’m ready to play and excited to be back.”

Although defenceman Zach Bogosian skipped Wednesday’s skate, Noel said he was merely taking a maintenance day after playing more than 26 minutes on Tuesday.

Should both Byfuglien and Burmistrov return, that would leave Evander Kane (concussion) and Tim Stapleton (knee) as the only players left injured.

Byfuglien remains on injured reserve, so the Jets will have to make a roster move in order to activate him.

However, that could be as easy as placing Stapleton on injured reserve, retroactive to Jan. 20.


Photos