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GAME DAY: Jets vs Blues (Preseason Game #3)

7:00 pm CT - TV: TSN 3; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - For a full week now, the Winnipeg Jets have been focused on transition defence and gap control during every session on the ice.

They get another chance to work on it tonight against the St. Louis Blues in preseason game number three. Forward Adam Lowry says the experience of having contested zone entries and not a lot of room to make plays in practice could actually benefit the Jets on the offensive side of the puck as well.

"A lot of teams are going to play that hard gap game and they're not going to give you a lot of time and space. You get used to that in practice, you're going to get used to playing under those conditions in games," Lowry said. "It's frustrating. You feel like you don't get any clean zone entries or they're right up on you and smothering you. It's going to be something we continue to work on during the year and hopefully it works to our advantage."

Video: PREGAME | Adam Lowry

That work will continue throughout training camp and as the regular season goes on, says Paul Maurice, who said he and the coaching staff have reworked some of the drills from previous years.

"We've done one uncontested 2-on-1. We've taken all the drills out where the forwards are flowing easily up and down the ice because we're working on the defensive idea of it," said Maurice. "So practice gets bogged a little bit. But it's good for them, camp isn't supposed to be fun."

Tonight's match-up with the Blues will be a good chance to work on some of those defensive concepts, as St. Louis is bringing a slightly more veteran squad - including 2019 Frank J. Selke Award winner Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron.

"We'll have guys that will play in the American League in that line-up and I'm not changing the match-up. I'll let them play against their top end," said Maurice. "So it'll be a matter of even if they can't get it done, they can't stop them, if their brain is right and dialed into what we're doing, they're going to move a certain way. That's what we're looking for."

While the Jets didn't hold a morning skate on Friday - instead opting for an off-ice workout - one forward line that is certain is comprised of Lowry, Andrew Copp, and Jack Roslovic.

"Both Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry's game over the last few years has developed, now we can start thinking of a different style of player there," said Maurice.

"They are both so accomplished defensively, they create an awful lot of offensive zone time, that if we can find ourselves a forward that has a skill set where he can finish a little bit and create a little bit - but also be responsible defensively. 

"We're also exposing Jack Roslovic to a different intensity level. There is some growth for Jack too. Play as hard as those two guys, bring your hands to the game, let's see what we can do."

Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

All three players have one preseason game under their belts so far this month, with Roslovic playing 18:50 on Monday in a 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

Copp had a goal and an assist in Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, while Lowry had four hits in 12:43 of ice time on the same night.

Lowry feels Roslovic's speed could be a similar asset that Brandon Tanev, now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, used to bring to the wing.

"I think Rosey possesses that speed and he's got tremendous hand skills," Lowry said. "He can use that speed to back defenders off and he can get in and disrupt plays like Rusty. He's got some offence to his game. Hopefully we'll be able to contribute in that aspect as well."

Lowry has hit double-digits in goals in three of his five NHL seasons, with his career-high of 15 coming in 2016-17. Last year's 12 goals were the second most he's scored in his career, but his focus remains on shutting down the opposition's best.

"I look at my role as going out there and trying to match up against the other team's top line and trying to win that battle - whether that's keeping them off the score sheet or that's outscoring them," said Lowry. "Obviously you'd like them to not feel good about their game, so if you can keep them off the score sheet it's huge. If you can chip in when you can, it's an added bonus."

Connor Hellebuyck will get the start in goal for the Jets with puck drop set for 7 pm CT at Bell MTS Place.

Video: PREGAME | Neal Pionk

ICE CHIPS

Neal Pionk will suit up for the second time in the preseason tonight, but it will be the first time he wears Jets colours at Bell MTS Place.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Pionk said. "I've played here a couple times on the road but to play in front of the Jets fans and to have them on your side is going to be really fun."

Pionk's 21:10 of ice time was the third most among Jets defencemen on Monday night in Edmonton. He's looking to continue to build chemistry with his new teammates tonight.

"We can play better as a team, myself included, but that's the whole point of the preseason is to get your feet wet and get back into regular season form," said Pionk, who continues to learn more about the Jets system with each passing day.

"It's a process. I think you learn most in the games. Obviously with game like situations and practices it can be hard to practice. So the more preseason games that come the more I'll understand it. The more I talk to the coaches, the more I'll understand it."

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

Game Notes

The Winnipeg Jets host the St. Louis Blues tomorrow in the second of three consecutive pre-season home games for the Jets...Winnipeg is 1-1 so far during the pre-season after losing 2-0 in Edmonton on Monday and defeating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Wednesday...The Jets finish the three-game homestand on Sunday against the Calgary Flames.

Last Game

Sep. 18 vs. MIN - 4-1 W

Jets Scorers: Copp (1), Wheeler (1), Morrissey (1), Suess (1)

Wild Scorers: Sturm (1)

Jets Goaltender: Brossoit (20 sv, 1 ga)

Wild Goaltenders: Kahkonen (18 sv, 2 ga); Robson (10 sv, 1 ga)

Jets PP: 1-for-3

Jets PK: 3-for-3

Recap: Andrew Copp and Blake Wheeler scored 38 seconds apart in the first 1:37 of the first period, as the Jets beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Wednesday night at Bell MTS Place...Josh Morrissey had a power play goal in the third period, while C.J. Suess sealed the victory with an empty goal goal with 1:15 to play...Copp (1G, 1A), Wheeler (1G, 1A) and Sami Niku (2A) each had two points...Laurent Brossoit stopped 20 of 21 shots and held Minnesota scoreless through the first 48:44 of the game...The Jets were a perfect three-for-three on the penalty kill...Mark Scheifele won 10-of-16 faceoffs (63%).  

Three Stars: 1. Wheeler 2. Morrissey 3. Copp

No. 1 Tendy

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is slated to make his pre-season debut tomorrow for the Jets...He's played in 212 games during the past four seasons, which is the second most games played in franchise history and 11th amongst NHL goaltenders in the past four seasons...Hellebuyck's 117 wins are also second in franchise history, while his .915 save percentage is first among qualified goaltenders.

VIEW TONIGHT'S LINE-UP CARD

First Round of Defence

2019 first round selection Ville Heinola is playing in his second consecutive game...He played 16:42 in his pre-season debut on Wednesday and had two blocked shots...2016 first round selection Logan Stanley is also playing in his second pre-season game after playing 18:34 and blocking three shots against the Oilers on Monday.

Against the Blues

The Jets went 3-1-0 against the Blues in 2018-19 in the regular season, but fell to the Blues in six games in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs...The Jets are 10-3 against St. Louis in the regular season during the last three seasons...Blake Wheeler has 20 points (7G, 13A) in 13 games against the Blues during the past three seasons, which leads the NHL...Connor Hellebuyck went 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in three games against the Blues last season.

Back Outside

The Jets are scheduled to face the Calgary Flames at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Oct. 26 for the 2019 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic...This is Winnipeg's second outdoor game, as the Jets hosted the Edmonton Oilers in 2016 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic at IG Field.

Road Start

The Jets play five of their first six games on the road to begin the regular season, including a four-game road trip to start the season...Winnipeg visits the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins to kick off the 2019-20 campaign...The Jets were 22-18-1 on the road last season, which was 13th in the NHL.

Rookie Recap

The Jets went 1-2 during the Rookie Showcase earlier this month in Bellville, Ont...The Jets rookies beat Montreal 2-1, while they dropped the two games to Ottawa (8-1 and 2-1 OTL)...Cole Maier led the Jets contingent in scoring with three points in three games (1G, 2A).

Pre-Season Sked

The Jets play seven pre-season games in 14 days this month...Winnipeg plays their usual pre-season counterparts twice each - Minnesota, Calgary, and Edmonton - and host the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues on Sept. 20 at Bell MTS Place.

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