WINNIPEG -- With Friday’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks behind them, the Winnipeg Jets are focused on the second game of a four-game home stand, which comes Sunday afternoon against Anaheim.
Head coach Paul Maurice spoke after the 4-0 loss to the Blackhawks about the importance of protecting the puck, but feels the Ducks present a different kind of challenge than Chicago.
“Chicago was very patient in the game, until we fed them a couple and then they got on that confident roll. I don’t think Anaheim will be nearly as patient. Defensively they’ll be far more aggressive,” said Maurice. “Anaheim has completely changed their season going to a very defensive mindset when they had a long stretch when they weren’t scoring goals but kept trying to as a foundation.
“Now they’ve held on to that game. They skate very well and they’re going to defend very hard, then they’re just going to take what you give them off that.”
Drew Stafford agreed with his coach on the importance of puck possession. He recalled the 12 giveaways the Jets had against Chicago led to some of the Blackhawks offensive chances.
“Obviously we had a couple mistakes that cost us, and ended up in the back of our net. Myself included, I had a chance to get the puck out,” he said. “Anaheim is the same way. Everyone in here, we’re definitely going to be more cognizant of taking care of the puck, starting in our own end, and moving on from there.”
Sunday’s game will be the second match up of the season between the Jets and the Ducks. Anaheim took the first meeting 4-1 back at Honda Center on Jan. 3. Overall the Jets are 7-8-0 against the Pacific Division, a division where the Ducks (39-22-9) sit in second place with 87 points.
“It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing, they’re not going to take it easy on you. They’re not feeling sorry for us,” said Stafford of the Jets 29-37-5 record. “It’s our job to be professional and no matter what happens the night before, show up the next day and put the work in and find ways to get better… We’re playing for pride, we’re playing for our fans. Last night was obviously a disappointment, so that’s something we’re going to bring that back.”
One area the Jets would like to see improve Sunday is the power play. After going 0-for-4 with the man advantage Friday, the team spent the majority of Saturday’s skate at MTS Centre working on it, but as Stafford says, with games every other day, practice time is at a premium.
“Today we were able to have a pretty good practice with a lot of time focusing on that power play, which is something that we need to work on and get better at,” he said. “It’s all about pace, it’s all about getting on the puck, being hard on the puck. It comes down to compete. If you out compete the penalty killers, you usually have success.”
INJURY AND FLU BUG
Joel Armia, Mark Stuart, and Nikolaj Ehlers skated once again today in non-contact jerseys as they continue their road to recovery from their respective injuries.
Matt Halischuk is the most recent Jet to be hit with the flu bug. The forward missed Saturday’s practice as a result.
“He’s part of the team flu program that we’re running,” Maurice joked following practice. “We’ve had almost half of everybody join so far. It’s a tough club. Nobody wants to get in, but nobody can stay out of it.”
Scott Kosmachuk has now played six games since his emergency recall Mar. 8. In that time, the forward has registered one assist, which came on Adam Lowry’s eventual game winning goal over Colorado.
In last night’s game against Chicago, Kosmachuk lined up with Lowry and Nic Petan.
“I’ve got a little bit of the nerves out. I’m just trying to be strong in every play on the ice,” said Kosmachuk, who played just under 12 minutes. “So just trying to get that chemistry there, because you never know what they’re going to be coming into game time. Just trying to do my best.”
For Petan, this was his first NHL game since he was re-assigned Nov. 19, 2015. With the injuries up front, Petan was recalled just ahead of last night’s game against Chicago.
“I felt pretty well. A little nervous before the game, something I haven’t had in a while, a couple months,” he said. “I think you feel more comfortable as the game goes on. It’s different because at the beginning of the year you’re playing a little bit lower minutes. I think any player that’s out there playing those kind of minutes, you just feel better every time you’re out there every shift. I just kept it simple last night.”