WINNIPEG - A familiar face was on the ice when the Winnipeg Jets went through a 40-minute skate at MTS Centre today.
Fresh off being recalled from the Manitoba Moose, Ondrej Pavelec was stopping pucks at an NHL practice for the first time since training camp in the fall.
"I was happy. I was surprised as well. I haven't played there in four months, and all of a sudden I got the call," said Pavelec. "I remember my first year pro I got called up in two days after I got sent down. Anything can happen. Of course I was aware of the situation that the chance may never come. That's the life. That's hockey."
The 29-year-old Pavelec has played in 18 games with the Manitoba Moose this season, posting a .917 save percentage and a 2.78 goals against average. His most recent start saw him make 43 saves in a 4-1 Moose win over the Chicago Wolves on Sunday.
Video: PRACTICE | Ondrej Pavelec
Head coach Paul Maurice said Pavelec will get the start Wednesday, when the Jets begin a four-game home stand with a 6:30 pm CT puck drop against the Arizona Coyotes.
"We have to win hockey games. Both of our guys are struggling a little bit in the net, and Ondrej is playing well. He may give us the best chance tomorrow night, and we'll see beyond after that who's in net for us. If we like his game, then I'll throw him back in," said Maurice.
"We also have to get these two young guys back feeling good and on track. With the weight of what's going on, we've lost four in a row, that's a lot to put on them. So they need a little step back here."
Connor Hellebuyck was the second goaltender on the ice for today's practice, while Michael Hutchinson worked with goaltending coach Wade Flaherty prior to the full-team skate.
Video: PRACTICE | Connor Hellebuyck
"This just gives me more time to work on my game, and keep working on it to try and move forward," said Hutchinson. "I got to go out early and work with Flats one-on-one. During the season you don't really get a lot of time with practices and games to get that one-on-one time to really assess your game and work on things you need to work on."
Hellebuyck said the relationship between the three goaltenders is on good terms. Despite his winning record this season (16-13-1), Hellebuyck said he's had a lot to learn this season.
"I've gone though a pretty big learning curve that I've never really faced in my career," he said. "I've learned the ups and downs. You can't grip it too tight, and you can't get too low. You have to play a relaxed game, and you can't let things bother you too much.
"The small details, they really count in this league. You might be able to get away with one in other leagues, but in this one, it's really going to pay."
Video: PRACTICE | Michael Hutchinson
Between the two of them, Hellebuyck and Hutchinson have save percentages of .907 and .894 respectively. Hutchinson started each of the Jets last two games, while Hellebuyck has been pulled from each of his last two starts.
But Maurice isn't discouraged. He has seen the path Hellebuyck is on a number of times.
"He's going through the process that he needs to go through to give himself a chance to be a dominant number one goaltender in this league," said Maurice. "He's played hockey that's very solid and very strong, it hasn't been as long and as consistent of a run as we expect to get in the future. I truly believe he needs to go through this."
As a team, the Jets are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the most goals allowed in the NHL this season (144). It's a stat Hellebuyck takes as a challenge.
"You guys can point your fingers at us and say 'you guys need to be better' and that's okay because we're going to be better. We're going to work even harder now," said Hellebuyck. "If this is the push we needed, it's definitely a pretty big push."
To make room on the roster for Pavelec, the Jets placed Ben Chiarot on injured reserve, retro-active to Jan. 11 with an upper body injury.
Maurice added that Patrik Laine continues to progress, but is cautiously optimistic, given the unpredictability of concussion recovery.
"I could tell you he's improving and that would be true. Then we have to wait until tomorrow to see if it's more true," said Maurice. "We like to think it's getting better every day. Careful about saying that because normal course, there are times it doesn't get any better."
Tyler Myers was in the gym working to rehabilitate his lower body injury as well.
"He's still dealing with his personal family issue and that's priority number one for him," said Maurice. "Until such time that he can spend the time here, I would say there's no movement on his injury."