WINNIPEG - Two veterans will return to the Winnipeg Jets (2-2-0) blue line tonight, just in time for the team's home opener against the Minnesota Wild.
Both Josh Morrissey and Dmitry Kulikov will be in the line-up, which adds 854 games of NHL experience to a blue line that had just 356 games spread among six defencemen in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kulikov missed the win over Pittsburgh due to personal reasons, while Morrissey had been out with an upper-body injury for the last two games.
"I'm feeling good and I'm feeling ready to play," said Morrissey, who was injured in warm-up prior to the game against the New York Islanders. "It was one of those things that happens but I'm excited to be back tonight.
"It was a harmless collision obviously, but I'm feeling good now."
Video: Paul Maurice ahead of tonight's game against the Wild
The 24-year-old Morrissey was paired with Neal Pionk in today's morning skate, while the other pairs were Ville Heinola with Tucker Poolman and Anthony Bitetto with Kulikov.
No changes are expected to the forward lines - though the team didn't do formal line rushes.
That means Patrik Laine will stay with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
Laine and Scheifele sit atop the team's points list with six, thanks in large part to the three assists each player accumulated against the Penguins.
The 21-year-old feels he's bringing more to the table this season than last year.
"They're always working together. It's not them. It has been me before that hasn't been working," said Laine, adding he's learned what it takes to play with the duo of Wheeler and Scheifele. "I'm always working hard every shift. That's been the key for me and that line's success.
While there is still more to learn, Jets head coach Paul Maurice said that will all come with time. But the important part is that Laine - like Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, and even Scheifele when he was younger - has picked up on the importance of all aspects of the game in all three zones.
"They all go 'oh geez not only do I have to put points up here, but I have to do all these other things.' That's what the NHL demands," Maurice said.
"There are times (Scheifele and Wheeler) just need (the puck) to go forward because they've built speed. Then they can make some of those plays they've made inside and he's going to get the puck off his stick in the slot enough times to score goals."
Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey
But as important as offence like that was against the Penguins, many of the players felt the team's play defensively was even more critical.
Andrew Copp played 17:24 against Pittsburgh. He noted the forwards have a big responsibility in many of the reads defencemen make.
"Our back pressure is really good. Our back check, we're on the puck and we're allowing our D to step up and take the body and not give them clean entries," Copp said. "That's been a hallmark of our forward group for a while now. It's something that's really important. Allowing our D to gap up and not feel like they have guys coming at them left and right - especially the odd-man rushes, I feel like we really narrowed those down from the game before."
The Jets will look to continue that strong defensive play against the Minnesota Wild, who come into tonight's Central Division tilt at 0-2-0.
While the Jets have played four Eastern Conference opponents, the Wild have seen two divisional opponents - the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.
"I think everyone is excited after some games on the road to get back home," said Morrissey. "Obviously we're only here for one (game), but we want to have a good start on home ice."
Video: PREGAME | Patrik Laine
Fresh off a 37-save performance against the Penguins, Connor Hellebuyck was the first goaltender off the ice at morning skate and is expected to start in goal. Meanwhile, the Wild will counter with Devan Dubnyk, who has played in both of Minnesota's first two games.
Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
"The home opener is always exciting," Morrissey said. "To be back in your own building and starting off another season, it's always a lot of fun."
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
Video: PREGAME | Andrew Copp
The Winnipeg Jets bring the curtain up on their 2019-20 regular season home schedule with tomorrow's home opener against the Minnesota Wild...The Jets capped a four-game road trip with a 4-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night to go 2-2-0 on the trip...Winnipeg is back on the road Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks before returning to Bell MTS Place to host Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Oct. 8 at PIT - 4-1 W
Jets Scorers: Heinola (1), Ehlers (1), Poolman (1), Pionk (2)
Penguins Scorers: Crosby (1)
Jets Goaltender: Hellebuyck (37 sv, 1 ga)
Penguins Goaltender: Murray (18 sv, 4 ga)
Jets PP: 0-for-0
Jets PK: 2-for-2
Recap: The Winnipeg Jets surrendered the first goal of the game 32 seconds into the first period, but rattled off four unanswered goals to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday night...Ville Heinola, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Tucker Poolman scored their first goals of the season for Winnipeg, while Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele each tallied three assists...Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 37 of 38 shots.
Three Stars: 1. Scheifele 2. Laine 3. Poolman
READ TONIGHT'S GAME NOTES
The Jets play six of their next seven games at Bell MTS Place...Winnipeg finished fourth in the NHL last season by going 25-11-4 at home...The past two seasons are the only two seasons in franchise history in which the Jets have won 25 or more home games...Winnipeg's longest winning streak at home last season was seven games from Jan. 6-Feb. 2/19...The Jets had one of the best power plays at home in the NHL last season, finishing second at 31.4% (38-for-121)...Winnipeg's 38 power play goals at home last season was also second in the NHL...The Jets have a 57-19-6 record at Bell MTS Place in the past two regular seasons, which is the third best home record in the NHL...The Jets scored 151 goals at home last season, which was third in the NHL, and outscored their opposition 118-59 in their 25 wins.
Tomorrow and Saturday against the Chicago are Winnipeg's first games against Central Division opponents this season...The Jets went 13-12-1 against Central Division teams last season...Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Jets are 47-29-5 against Central Division teams, which is second in the NHL...In that same time frame, Blake Wheeler leads all NHLers in scoring against the Central Division with 98 points (28G, 70A) in 81 games.
Come Back Again and Again
The Jets have trailed first in all four games to start the season and have come back to win two of those games...Winnipeg is the only team in the NHL to post multiple wins when trailing first this season...The Jets and San Jose Sharks (0-4-0) are the only two teams in the NHL so far to trail first in their first four games to start the season...Last season, the Jets won 18 games when trailing first, which was second in the league...Blake Wheeler has a share of the NHL lead this season with two game-tying goals.
Set Up Men
On the back of five assists each, Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele lead the Jets with six points in four games to start the season...Both players had three assists on Tuesday against Pittsburgh, which established a career high for Laine and matched a career high for Scheifele for assists in a game...Laine is averaging 1.25 assists per game to start the season, compared to his career average of 0.33 assists per game.
The Jets had three defenceman score in Tuesday's win against Pittsburgh...Jets defencemen have accounted for 38.5% of Winnipeg's goals this season, which is tied for first in the NHL among teams that have played at least three games...Last season, Winnipeg's defencemen scored 12.6% of the team's goals...Jets defencemen have factored into nine of Winnipeg's 13 goals this season (69.2%)...Rookie Ville Heinola (1G, 2A) and Neal Pionk (2G, 1A) lead Jets defencemen with three points in four games.
How the Jets Were Built
Drafted (15) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Gustafsson, Heinola, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Niku, Morrissey, Poolman, Scheifele, Roslovic
Trade (3) - Beaulieu, Pionk, Wheeler
Free Agency (6) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Kulikov, Letestu, Perreault
Waivers (1) - Dahlstrom