Niku, 21, has 15 goals and 52 points for the Moose this season. He is tied for second in goals, and first in points by an AHL defenceman this year.
The Jets have experienced a slew of injuries on the backend as of late. However, with Jacob Trouba having just returned to Winnipeg’s lineup, and only Toby Enstrom and Dmitry Kulikov, left on the injured reserve, this moves comes as more of an ‘experience’ sort of call-up for the Finnish blueliner taken in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Much like the Jets have done in recent years with Nic Petan, Jack Roslovic, Eric Comrie and Kyle Connor, this late-season addition, provides some NHL experience to a younger player, ready to make the push for the big leagues in the coming season.
The loss of Niku couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Moose however, as Manitoba has lost its last five games – all at home. The Moose are now tied with Chicago in the Central Division, but the Wolves have two games in hand on Manitoba.
With Dustin Byfuglien out of the lineup Monday night for precautionary reasons against Ottawa (27-40-11), regular defensive fill-in Tucker Poolman, will draw into the Jets'(48-20-10) starting six on the back end Monday. Although Head Coach Paul Maurice isn’t one hundred percent sure, it appears as though Niku could make his NHL debut Tuesday night in Montreal.
“You keep your fingers crossed,” Maurice said. It’s a full-contact sport. There’s no possible way for any of us to predict who that guy would be. You hope everybody stays healthy. There might be one or two guys that I’ll work hard on convincing that a day off would help. But the lineup will look fairly intact right through.”
Monday’s game in Ottawa will see 41-game winner Connor Hellebuyck go up against Craig Anderson in a cautious game, which Winnipeg hopes to avoid any key injuries heading into the playoffs. According to Maurice, injured goaltender Steve Mason, and current healthy scratch Jack Roslovic could also draw back into the lineup Tuesday.
“I understand it. I see it every day, players go down and you can’t forecast that or who it would be. Sometimes when you make adjustments to your lineup, it changes the mentality of the room in preparing for an NHL game. That has as big an impact on anything.”
Puckdrop from Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre is set for 6:30 P.M. central. The game can be viewed live on TSN3.
By Carter Brooks
Photo by James Carey Lauder