WINNIPEG -- The way the Winnipeg Jets have been playing at home in December, they may wish to extend their current two-game home stand.
Winnipeg is 5-1-0 at MTS Centre this month, with that fifth win coming Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jets forward Drew Stafford said the 1-0 win may have been “boring” at times, but there were “grade A” chances on both sides. He says the Jets’ recent success at home has been a collective effort.
“(We’re) staying out of the box, (and) making sure that when we are on special teams we’re getting the job done,” Stafford said. “We’ve been playing a pretty good game at home. Hopefully one more, then take it on the road.”
Stafford and the Jets (16-17-2) embark on a season-long five-game road trip after tonight’s game against Detroit. Speaking of the road, or more specifically, the air, Detroit (18-11-7) flew into Winnipeg late last night following a 3-1 loss to Minnesota.
Tonight will be the sixth time the Jets face an opponent on the back half of a back-to-back.
“You can definitely notice it as the game progresses. You saw with Pittsburgh, it looked like maybe they got a little tired as the game wore on,” said forward Adam Lowry. “Obviously coming off the Christmas break it’s not going to be as much of a factor as it would be later in the season. These are important points for us going on the road coming up. We’re going to look to continue the way we played against Pittsburgh.”
Lowry played 16:52 in the win over Pittsburgh. He registered three hits, and along with line mates Andrew Ladd and Alexander Burmistrov, kept sniper Evgeni Malkin from getting a single shot on goal.
“Having played with (Burmistrov) a bit before and played with (Ladd) last year, I was comfortable playing with both of them,” said Lowry. “Obviously as a line it will take a little bit to get some chemistry going, but for the most part I thought we were able to generate some good chances.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice liked what he saw from the 22-year-old Lowry in that game, Lowry’s first since being recalled from a four-game stint in the AHL.
“It’s also a role that I see Adam Lowry playing. That’s his position, that’s what he’s training to do,” said Maurice. “With younger players you’ll get three out of five good (games), and you’re pushing them to get to that four out of five, nine out of ten, and that’s usually what happens when they get to that full maturity.”
Maurice added the Jets will face a lot of similar challenges against Detroit as they did against Pittsburgh.
“You’ve got Kessel and Bonino coming out on (Pittsburgh’s) third line, (now) you’ve got Tatar and Nyqvist coming out with some speed,” he said. “Some real depth and speed throughout their whole group.”
Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist rank third and fourth on the Red Wings in points with 23 and 21 respectively. Stafford, who saw highlights of Detroit’s loss last night, along with video prior to morning skate, said those are the types of players the Jets have to keep an eye on tonight.
“They have some high end guys that know how to hang on to the puck and make plays,” said Stafford. “Discipline comes into play as far as not giving them any extra time or extra space to make plays. For the most part we’re pretty much just worried about how we’re going to play.”
The puck drops on the first meeting of the season between the Jets and Red Wings at 7 pm CT.
Maurice gave updates on Mark Scheifele and Ondrej Pavelec after today’s pre-game skate.
Scheifele missed his first game of the season Sunday, following a collision with Ladd at Saturday’s practice. Maurice said Scheifele sustained a concussion on the play, and now three days later, is showing progress.
“No setbacks, all positive, nothing’s changed. It’s a good run,” said Maurice. “We’ll still get to the seven day mark, which is what the protocol calls for, and make an assessment then.”
As for Pavelec, who has been out since a collision with Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes November 21, Maurice says the goaltender hasn’t skated just yet, but could be soon.
“He’s right on. Our plan now is to bring him on the road trip with us,” said Maurice. “Not sure that puts him on the ice yet, but it allows us to really monitor the progress he’s made.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com