WINNIPEG -- Tonight’s match up between the Winnipeg Jets (8-9-2) and Vancouver Canucks (7-6-6) will be a meeting of two “really desperate” teams, according to Head Coach Paul Maurice.
“They’re at the end of a trip, it’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel for them. I’m not sure this isn’t the end of the trip for us too. We’ve come off the road and played every other night, so we’re feeling the same way,” said Maurice. “Both teams are coming in, I don’t think the tanks are full, but it’s probably going to look like they are tonight.”
The reason for the desperation lies in the fact both teams are trying to snap winless skids. The Jets are winless in six, while the Canucks don’t have a win in their last three.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd, fresh off playing 21:45 in the 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Monday, says streaks of this nature can be tough to climb out of, despite all the effort in trying to get out.
“Every team kind of goes through a point in the season where you’re in a rut, and you find a way to get out of it. It feels like you’re working and trying everything you can to get out of it, and it’s just not happening,” said Ladd. “You stick together as a group, and keep working at it, and find a way… We’ll get out of this, and be a better team on the other side.”
In an effort to provide a spark, Maurice changed the look of the Winnipeg lines as the team begins a three-game home stand. The first move - shifting second-year forward Adam Lowry to the wing – is something Maurice did last year at this time.
“For a physical player like Adam, a lot of times you can get in on that forecheck a little heavier, a little quicker,” said Maurice. “It’s an asset he has, and we need to build some confidence their in his game. So we want to put him in a position where he feels he can get some good things done.”
The 22-year-old Lowry is no stranger to the wing, having grown up playing the position.
“Throughout the course of the year, there’s always going to be changes to the line up. You have to be able to adapt and be able to play with anyone,” said Lowry, who will play in his 100th career NHL game tonight. “You saw what (Andrew) Copp and (Anthony) Peluso did last game against St. Louis, I thought they were really effective. Sliding in on their wing there, you’re just going to try and continue to complement those guys.”
Drew Stafford, who usually has Lowry centering his line, is set to reunite with a player he spent a lot of time with last year, Mark Scheifele.
“It’s an opportunity to create some space but also try to create more plays as well. Maybe try to get myself open in more shooting areas where hopefully I can generate a little more offence,” said Stafford. “Defensively, it’s not like we’re throwing that away either, we have to clean that up. But at the same time I feel as though, I’ve had history playing with Scheifele before, maybe build on that and see if we can turn this thing around.”
Maurice says the two most important things to driving through the grind of an 82-game season, and the ups and downs that go with it, are confidence and energy. Coming off playing nine games in nine different cities, he feels his team’s energy level is a bit low, and the confidence has taken a hit because of the difficult road trip.
But he also knows this is the type of adversity that comes with the learning process.
“Every year your team changes. You have to find out who you are and you’re going to have to go through some adversity to do that…. We get to 8-4-2, and we’re trying to figure out how we could be 10-2-2, and that’s a good thing,” said Maurice. “You’re pushing for more. Sometimes you end up squeezing a little harder, taking a step back, and we lost a little confidence in our room…
“Learning how to deal with this gives them a good blueprint of how to move forward.”
That process continues tonight, when the puck drops at 6:30 pm CT at MTS Centre.
Should Ryan Miller get the start for the Vancouver Canucks tonight, he’ll be going up against former Buffalo Sabres teammates Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers.
Miller was teammates with Stafford in Buffalo from 2006-2014, and Myers from 2009-2014.
Stafford says the amount of time spent with Miller resulted in a friendship that continues to this day.
“It’s always interesting playing against former teammates. Especially guys that you’re in one spot with for such a long time,” said Stafford. “You become friends with them. He’s got his own little boy now too, so he has his family. Our wives keep in touch. It’s interesting facing former teammates, but all that goes to the side when you’re trying to take care of your own business.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com