AT THE MORNING SKATE
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford have discovered new life.
It’s been a difficult season in Buffalo – the playoffs, long lost. Here in Winnipeg, however, the race is just heating up.
“It’s huge. Earlier in my career in Buffalo we were always in the hunt and every game was meaningful,” Stafford said after the morning skate at Bridgestone Arena. “It’s great to be a part of it again. There are going to be some adjustments and some mistakes here and there, but the bottom line is that we’re going to try our best for these guys and help the team win.”
The Jets come into tonight’s game leading the Western Conference Wild Card with 66 points.
“I’m excited. This is what we play for,” Myers said. “I saw the position these guys were in before we came and playing against them, they play a hard game. Stepping in and being a part of it now, it’s very exciting.”
Myers, who will wear No. 57 with the Jets, and Stafford, 12, met the team late last night here in Nashville after a whirlwind travel day. Stafford, a 29-year-old product of Faribault, MN, has found the transition to be a quick one, however.
“We were at the rink for practice [when I found out about the trade]. Everyone was talking about it, that there was this big rumour going around. Sure enough, it got confirmed. It was a complete circus for a little while with all the phone calls and texts.
“It was a crazy a day, but everything went smooth. The staff here took great care of us. Everything’s been awesome so far.”
“It’s going to take a couple days for them to really get comfortable,” added captain Andrew Ladd. “It’s a whirlwind for them learning new systems and having to move across the continent. I’m sure they’re excited to just get playing hockey again.”
Stafford, especially. He had to leave his wife and five-week-old son after learning the news 24 hours ago.
“You hope they have some chemistry,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “Getting those guys into the room and making them feel comfortable is the biggest challenge. ... Drew is already part of the Minnesota Mafia we have in our room (Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler). Tyler knows Andrew Ladd and Toby (Enstrom) from playing over in Austria during the lockout.
"We run quite a bit different system than they do in Buffalo, so there’s a lot for these guys to take in, but hopefully they can forget about everything we told them this morning and just go out and play.”
Stafford will line up alongside Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault on the second line, while Myers will be paired with Enstrom on blue line.
With Byfuglien moving back on defence, the projected forward line combinations and D pairs are as follows:
Ladd - Little - Wheeler
Perreault - Scheifele - Stafford
Frolik - Lowry - Thorburn
Galiardi - Slater - Peluso
Chiarot - Byfuglien
Stuart - Trouba
Enstrom - Myers
“Dustin’s been an impactful player in either position, but it’s good to have him back in the one he likes the most, because he’s talking a lot more. Everybody’s smiling,” Maurice said. “With Tyler coming and Jake Trouba on the other side, we’re not looking at 30 minutes (per game) with Dustin. We’ve got to spread that around a little bit.”
Ondrej Pavelec, who has a 1.70 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in three games against the Predators this season, will get the start in goal.
In this, the fourth of the five meetings between these two teams this season, the Jets will be looking to extend their winning streak to three. The Predators, who are coming off back-to-back losses, own the league’s best home record (22-3-1) and are on top of the Central Division standings with 78 points.
Naturally, it won’t be an easy one.
“They will play the same game, at home or on the road,” Maurice said. “They’re like we’re trying to be every night. They’re hard to play against and there’s no easy ice.
“We play similar systems. Nothing is given.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com