WINNIPEG - Brendan Lemieux thought he was going to play in his NHL debut on Tuesday.
While it didn't end up happening, he said it might have been a "blessing in disguise," as he feels much more prepared to handle the emotions tonight, when his debut takes place for real.
"There were a lot of emotions that came on. I was a little too excited. This hasn't really gotten too real yet. I've had some time to settle in and get a little more comfortable," said Lemieux. "Obviously I'm looking forward to it. I know there's going to be some nerves. Tonight is about trying to contribute, and showing what I can do, and trying to get a win tonight."
The 21-year-old will have his parents, his sister, and his girlfriend in attendance when the Winnipeg Jets (3-3-0) take on the Minnesota Wild, in the team's first match-up against a divisional opponent this season.
Video: PREGAME | Brendan Lemieux
Lemieux will skate on a line with Nic Petan and Shawn Matthias tonight, and Petan - who is good friends with Lemieux off the ice - is excited to see what his linemate can bring in his first NHL game.
"He brings energy," said Petan. "We were talking about it, just keep our game simple. I know I'm going to flip a few pucks in his corner in the first period. He's very fired up to get out there. His speed, his energy, and his excitement will help for sure."
Head coach Paul Maurice hinted Ben Chiarot could see his first action of the regular season after yesterday's practice. That hint was confirmed after this morning's optional skate.
"He's worked really hard. He's hungry. We're expecting this to be a pretty physical, strong game in the corners, and that's really what we're hoping he brings to the table," said Maurice. "Tucker (Poolman) had been good on his off side in exhibition. He had a rougher night - along with the rest of the group. Tonight seemed like a real good chance for Ben to get his chance to play."
Video: PREGAME | Nic Petan
Chiarot will be paired with Tyler Myers on the blue line, and with 170 NHL games under his belt, the 26-year-old defenceman knows what to expect from a Central Division opponent.
"Minnesota is a team we see a lot of. They play hard, and they're a pretty heavy team and move the puck well," Chiarot said. "Being strong in our own end is always key against these guys. They can make you pay pretty quickly."
There were no formal line rushes during the optional skate, but yesterday's line combinations looked like this, with Tyler Myers inserted after not skating on Thursday (maintenance):
The Wild (1-1-2) haven't played since letting a 4-2 third period lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets slip away on Oct. 14, resulting in a 5-4 overtime loss at Xcel Energy Center.
Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler
Like the Jets, the Wild have felt the impact of injuries on their line-up, but help for Minnesota may be on the way. Marcus Foligno (facial fracture) is expected to return after missing the game against Columbus, and Mikael Granlund - the Wild's leader in points last season with 69 - is a game time decision.
Zach Parise however, is out for Minnesota's two-game road trip.
For the Jets, who won't have the services of Adam Lowry (upper-body), Mathieu Perreault (lower-body), or Dmitry Kulikov (upper-body), tonight's game against the Wild is a chance to get back in the win column after Tuesday's loss to Columbus.
"I think it still has to burn you a little bit… You want to turn the page, and the best way to do that is to come out with a good effort tonight," said Wheeler."It's a tough division, some really good teams and some really competitive teams. We had some of the best teams in the Western Conference that we did pretty well against last year.
"It's good to know that you can play at that level, it's good to know that those types of teams and that type of competition brings out the best in your team. These types of match ups, we normally get up for. We're excited to get back at it tonight."
Video: PREGAME | Ben Chiarot
Devan Dubnyk (1-1-1, 3.71 goals against average) is expected to start in goal for the Wild. Connor Hellebuyck (3-0-0, 2.11 goals against average) will counter for the Jets, with puck drop set for 7 pm CT.
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets finish a three-game homestand tonight against the Minnesota Wild at Bell MTS Place...The Jets lost 5-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and have split the first two games of the homestand...The Jets have five days off following tonight's game before hitting the road for games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus next Thursday and Friday.
The Jets finished 19-8-2 against Central Division teams last season, including 12-6-1 against the four Central Division teams that went to the playoffs (Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis)...The Jets tied for a share of the best record in games played within the Central Division, as the Chicago Blackhawks also went 19-8-2 in divisional games...The Jets also had a winning record against every Central Division team, except the Minnesota Wild (1-4-0)...Only seven of Winnipeg's first 25 games this season are against a Central Division opponent.
Drawing a Call
The Jets drew just one penalty against Columbus on Tuesday, which marked the 33rd time since the franchise moved to Winnipeg that the Jets only drew one minor penalty...The Jets played seven games last year when they had one power play or less...On the flip side, the Jets are averaging only eight penalty minutes a game, which is sixth least in the NHL this season.
Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice is one victory away from 600 wins as an NHL head coach...He is poised to become the 17th NHL head coach to win 600 games, joining Joel Quenneville (855), Ken Hitchcock (784), Barry Trotz (716), Alain Vigneault (615) and Mike Babcock (602) as active coaches with at least 600 wins...He's won the most games in Jets franchise history with 139.
The Jets franchise is 65-84-36 all-time in October, including 27-29-8 since the team relocated to Winnipeg...In their 17th season, the franchise has posted a winning record in October five times (2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2015)...The Jets went 7-3-1 in October 2015 for a .652 points percentage, which is a franchise best.
State of Buff and Wheels
Minnesotans Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler have enjoyed playing the team from their home state...Byfuglien has 29 points (8G,21A) in 35 career games against the Wild, while Wheeler has 20 points (9G, 11A) in 26 games...Four of Byfuglien's eight goals have been game-winning goals and his plus-13 rating leads all Jets players against Minnesota...Byfuglien and Wheeler are the only two members of the Jets that have 20 or more points in their career against the Wild.
One Man Armi
Jets forward Joel Armia tallied his first goal of the season on Tuesday night and it came shorthanded...He now has five shorthanded goals during the last two seasons, which is tied for the most in the NHL with Nashville's Victor Arvidsson...Nearly half of Armia's 11 goals during the last two seasons have come shorthanded...As a team, the Jets lead the NHL in shorthanded goals during the past two seasons with 13.
Nikolaj Ehlers was awarded the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday...He tallied seven points (5G, 2A) in three games last week in leading the Jets to a 3-0-0 record...He scored the game-winning goal as part of a hat trick in a 5-2 win at Edmonton on Oct. 9/17, had a goal in a 4-2 win on the road against Vancouver on Oct. 12/17 and ended the week by scoring the game winner and adding an assist in a 2-1 victory against Carolina at home on Oct. 14/17...Ehlers' five goals are tied for the sixth in the NHL...He's one of five players in the NHL to have scored a hat trick this season.
Helle Stands Tall
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 28 of 29 shots in Saturday's win against Carolina to extend his personal winning streak to three games...He's maintaining a career season-high .937 save percentage through his first four games this season...A win in his next outing would match a career-high four-game winning streak, which Hellebuyck has done from Nov. 27-Dec. 10/15 and Nov. 8-13/16.