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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 2:32 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Cooke dealing with Karlsson injury criticism

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Matt Cooke has taken a heavy barrage of criticism for his involvement in the injury sustained by Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson on Wednesday.

Cooke's left skate sliced Karlsson's left Achilles tendon during a puck battle along the boards, ending the reigning Norris Trophy winner's season. Karlsson underwent surgery Thursday and faces a lengthy rehabilitation period. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray have expressed their displeasure with Cooke, whose disciplinary history makes leaves him vulnerable to such rebukes.

No penalty was called on the play, and the NHL Department of Player Safety saw no need to assess supplemental discipline.

Cooke expressed his regret about the incident Friday after the Penguins conducted their morning skate at MTS Centre. Cooke said he had reached out to Karlsson via a text message.

"Whether or not he responds to me, I understand," Cooke said. "At the end of the day, it was a freak, unfortunate accident and I can't control anything else but that. I obviously felt bad about the cut and just hope that he has a fast recovery. I know it's not fast, but as fast as possible."

Cooke also adopted a non-confrontational tone in regard to Melnyk's criticism and chose not to offer his feelings on the comments that have been directed toward him since the game Wednesday.

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 1:44 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Penguins hope to continue road success in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Pittsburgh Penguins return to life on the road, a place of comfort for them this season, when they meet the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Friday.

The Penguins are 6-2-0 on the road this season, and land in Winnipeg 7-3-0 in their past 10 games. The Pittsburgh power play has scored in each of the club's past six games and is clicking at a 37.5-percent rate in that span (9-for-24).

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma attributes his team’s road success to a hard-nosed approach away from home.

"We've been able to do that on the road with more effect than maybe at home," Bylsma said. "We've been able stay away from the perception of our team, which is high-skill and making great plays, to playing a hard game, playing in the offensive zone, being a smothering team. We've been able to do that in some tough places, and that's maybe been [the reason for] our success on the road."

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Posted On Friday, 02.15.2013 / 1:02 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Tangradi debuts, Bogosian makes debut for Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Newly acquired Eric Tangradi will be making his Winnipeg Jets debut Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at MTS Centre, but he will not be the only player in the lineup needing to make a fresh impression on Jets coach Claude Noel.

Noel blistered his team Thursday, telling the local media he did not like the way it played nor the players' effort. Noel's comments followed a busy Wednesday in which the Jets shipped out veteran forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils hours after landing Tangradi. Winnipeg dropped a 3-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.12.2013 / 1:52 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Byfuglien returning for Jets vs. Flyers

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers have one thing in common heading into their game Tuesday at MTS Centre -- both are coming off recent losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Jets lost 3-2 at home to Toronto on Feb. 7, but they were able to rebound with a 1-0 road win two nights later against the Ottawa Senators. They've been off since then, while the Flyers lost 5-2 in Toronto on Monday.

The Jets will welcome defenseman Dustin Byfuglien back to the lineup against the Flyers after a five-game absence with an undisclosed injury. Byfuglien will reunite with defense partner Tobias Enstrom, whose two goals and 11 assists tie him for the NHL lead in scoring among defensemen. Winnipeg also anticipates the imminent return of Zach Bogosian to its blue line. Bogosian has not played this season after offseason wrist surgery.

Jets coach Claude Noel would not confirm his defensive mix, but it is expected Grant Clitsome will be a healthy scratch to make room for Byfuglien.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 2:44 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs have been road terrors this season

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The road has been a safe port for the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the season.

The Maple Leafs (5-5-0) have used a 4-1-0 start on the road to offset a 1-4-0 at Air Canada Centre. They continue a three-game trip at MTS Centre against the Winnipeg Jets. Toronto is fresh off a 3-2 road win against the Washington Capitals and will finish its journey with a stop at Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday evening.

"Obviously, you've got to focus on the start," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of facing a Jets club that has established a solid presence on Winnipeg ice. "Usually when you have success on the road, your first period is an indicator of where your game is at. You always want to establish a good start.

"We're just asking for the contribution to be more than ordinary from everybody. Ordinary is not good enough for us. We have to be better than ordinary."

However, the Toronto lineup remains rather battered. Mike Brown, Carl Gunnarsson and Joffrey Lupul are injured, though Carlyle said Brown’s return could be close. Gunnarsson remained in Toronto, where he is rehabilitating a hip injury.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.07.2013 / 2:10 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets look to put together back-to-back victories

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- A 3-2 overtime win Tuesday night for the Winnipeg Jets eased the flow of breakdowns that plagued them on a three-game road trip last week.

Now the Jets (4-4-1) have a Thursday night date with the Toronto Maple Leafs at MTS Centre to try to mitigate further some of the damage from the 0-3-0 sojourn. With a road visit to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday followed by home meetings with the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, the Jets need to start collecting points.

The Jets will not be receiving any injury relief against Toronto, however. Zach Bogosian nudged closer to an eventual return from offseason wrist surgery and participated in his first morning skate of the season with the Jets. However, Jets coach Claude Noel said afterward that Bogosian remains "a ways away" from making his season debut. Dustin Byfuglien also participated in the Jets' morning skate, but he will miss his fourth consecutive game with an undisclosed injury.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.05.2013 / 2:19 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Panthers hope to keep rolling in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Winnipeg Jets proved to be a good tonic for the Florida Panthers last week, and the Panthers hope that an encore engagement Tuesday night at MTS Centre will provide a similar result.

Florida thumped Winnipeg last Thursday at BB&T Center, using a five-goal third period to take a 6-3 decision. The Panthers followed that effort with a 4-3 road win at Buffalo that began a four-game road trip. The back-to-back two-point efforts have taken some of the sting out of a season-opening 1-5-0 start.

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen likes the steps that his team has taken.

"I think we're playing with little more group-of-five than the individual play that we saw earlier," Dineen said. "We were out of sync. There was not a whole of flow going on. I think there's better chemistry as a team and how we have to play."

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.05.2013 / 1:50 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets limp home to face Panthers, with PK a focus

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Normally a midwinter trip that includes a stop in Florida is a welcome time for the Winnipeg Jets, but last week's three-game road trip left them limping home.

The Jets (3-4-1) dropped all three games, including a defeat last Thursday to the Florida Panthers, who visit MTS Centre for a Tuesday evening date. The penalty kill, a source of many of Winnipeg's defensive problems last season, has again become a major issue for coach Claude Noel and his club. Winnipeg has surrendered goals on eight of its past 16 shorthanded situations, and the Jets rank last in the League on the penalty kill.

Noel said defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will miss his third consecutive game with an undisclosed injury, but that a return for Thursday's game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs is a possibility. Winnipeg is also without Zach Bogosian, whose return remains slated for mid-February. Alexander Burmistrov centers Winnipeg's second line.

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Posted On Sunday, 01.27.2013 / 2:49 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Islanders' Hickey set for NHL debut against Jets

WINNIPEG – The New York Islanders’ long road trip moves its way to Winnipeg for a Sunday evening date at MTS Centre.

The Islanders (2-2-0) landed in Winnipeg after a 4-2 road loss Friday to the Boston Bruins in which they allowed three unanswered Boston goals to erase a lead built on two goals from Keith Aucoin. The loss Friday ended a two-game win streak for the Islanders, who are on the third contest of their five-game road trip.

Rick DiPietro made his first start since December 2011 in the loss to Boston. However, Islanders coach Jack Capuano will return veteran Evgeni Nabokov to handle the Islanders’ goaltending chores against Winnipeg.

Capuano said after the Islanders’ lengthy morning skate that he is pleased with his team’s work ethic, but he still needs to see more contributions across his roster.

To that end, Capuano will make two line-up changes. Thomas Hickey, the fourth overall pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut . The Islanders picked up the 23-year-old via waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 15. Hickey will replace Joe Finley. Eric Boulton will take the place of Casey Cizikas on the Islanders’ fourth line. Veteran Radek Martinek is the lone healthy Islander to play this season.

Here are the possible lineups for the Islanders:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Brad Boyes

David Ullstrom - Keith Aucoin - Colin McDonald

Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Eric Boulton

Mark Streit - Brian Strait

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner

Evgeni Nabokov

Rick DiPietro

Injured: Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu

Scratched: Casey Cizikas, Joe Finley, Radek Martinek

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Posted On Sunday, 01.27.2013 / 2:35 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Montoya making his Jets' debut against former club

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets (2-1-1) look to build on their best start since the 2009-10 season when they greet the New York Islanders on Sunday night at MTS Centre.

Winnipeg is fresh off a come-from-behind 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night in which they rattled off four unanswered goals against veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun. But they will be up against an Islanders club that took both meetings at MTS Centre -- and three of the teams’ four meetings -- last season.

Despite the win against Pittsburgh, Jets coach Claude Noel is taking a cautious approach to facing the Islanders.

“We’re aware of what they are,” Noel said of meeting the Islanders. “They’re playing pretty well. They’re not a team that we want to take lightly, that’s for sure.”

Noel elected to have offseason addition Al Montoya make his debut in net for Winnipeg against his former Islanders teammates.

“I just want to try to get Al playing,” Noel said. “He needs to be part of our group. Pavelec has played all of the games, and there have been some emotional games. It’s good that [Montoya] play here in our building and get a feel for that stuff.”

Noel will return with the rest of the lineup Friday against the Islanders, meaning that prospect Mark Scheifele will miss his second consecutive game after dressing for the Jets’ first three contests.

Here is the projected lineup for the Jets:

Evander KaneOlli JokinenBlake Wheeler

Andrew LaddNikolai AntropovBryan Little

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Alex Burmistrov – Kyle Wellwood

James WrightJim SlaterChris Thorburn

Tobias EnstromDustin Byfuglien

Mark StuartRon Hainsey

Grant ClitsomePaul Postma

Al Montoya

Ondrej Pavelec

Injured: Zach Bogosian, Antti Miettinen

Scratched: Anthony Peluso, Mark Scheifele

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Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares