It's been more than a month since Zach Bogosian has played for the Winnipeg Jets and both the defenceman and his coach are happy his healing time in the pressbox is coming to an end.
"He's got weight, he's passionate, he can get the puck stopped and he can do a lot of things," coach Claude Noel said of Bogosian, who'll likely team up with Toby Enstrom when the Jets host the Florida Panthers Friday night.
"He's a guy who can really help you and we look forward to having him back in the lineup."
So does Enstrom.
"It's great to have him back," he said. "He's a key player for us who brings a lot to our team."
But no one is happier than Bogosian.
"It's frustrating when you watch from the pressbox," he said after practice. "I'm a competitive guy who wants to be out there playing with the guys and it sucks sitting in the pressbox or at home with the guys on the road."
Florida will come in after playing Thursday night in Ottawa so the Jets are hoping they can capitalize on a little fatigue. But they also know the Panthers are on a roll.
Bogosian suffered what is thought to have been a groin injury Nov. 15 and the Jets need all the help they can get now. Winnipeg (15-16-5) has won only one of its last five and sits last in the Central Division and 12th in the Western Conference.
The night Bogosian was injured was also when the Jets' longest win streak of the season (four games) ended and they've struggled to win more than a couple in a row since.
"It seems like we haven't been able to string a good set of wins together," said captain Andrew Ladd. "Even St. Louis and Colorado. I felt like we played two pretty solid games that could have gone either way and we weren't able to come out with victories in those.
"Those are the type of games we need to win to string a few together here."
Bogosian averaged almost 23 minutes of ice time per game before his injury but Noel says it's too early to predict how much the burly defenceman will play. Bogosian had four points in 21 contests but sports a team-leading plus-eight rating.
"We'll look to put him with Toby but we'll have to judge how he plays," said Noel. "He's been out for a while so we've got to see how he does."
It looks like Dustin Byfuglien may team up with Adam Pardy in another defence pairing as Noel tries to shake things up.
"We need to find some things that help us get some games and some wins together," Noel said. "So if that helps, that's what we're looking for."
Noel suggested goalie Ondrej Pavelec (10-14-4) is in no danger of losing his starting job although backup Al Montoya (5-2-1) has posted decent numbers lately.
"I like to see every day that I step out there I'm improving, that I'm getting better," said Montoya. "I just want to play when I'm called upon."
It's been a little more frustrating for Pavelec, who says the Jets are showing the same inconsistency they have for as long as he's been part of the team.
"We can do it, we know we can do it. We show it sometimes," he said. "We need everybody to play their 'A' game to win the game.
"We have to play as a team and if we do that, we'll be fine. If not, we can't win."
Noel didn't hang too much on goaltending alone.
"All teams would like to have that .968 save percentage," said Noel. "We help the numbers too. Where are the shots coming from? How many power plays are you giving up?"
He says the whole team has to play better.
"This to me goes under the umbrella of adversity and how do you deal with it," Noel said of the slump. "It's my job to find solutions. . . It's not easy but it's not easy for a lot of people."