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Kosmachuk to make NHL debut as Jets host Predators

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG -- For the second time in the last three home games, an emergency recall means a member of the Manitoba Moose will play his first NHL game.

Following Josh Morrissey’s debut against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night, Scott Kosmachuk got the call this morning, and will be in the line-up when the Winnipeg Jets (27-33-5) face the Nashville Predators.

“It’s such an honour. I’ve worked my whole life for this, and it’s something I’ve dreamed of and it’s finally happening. So it’s great,” said Kosmachuk.

“It’s nice that the Moose are moved into Winnipeg, nice and close like this. When I got the call, (Moose head coach) Keith (McCambridge) brought me in his room, and a bunch of the staff were there to congratulate me, and they told me I was going up. It’s an awesome feeling.”

In 59 games with the Moose this season, Kosmachuk has put up 14 goals and 27 assists. The 22-year-old forward was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft, and skated on a line with Adam Lowry and Chris Thorburn at today’s pre-game skate.

“Just bring energy,” Kosmachuk said in terms of what he hoped to bring to the line-up tonight. “The Jets are in need of some help here and I’m hoping to bring it.”

Kosmachuk draws into the line-up with Joel Armia sidelined with a lower-body injury. Head coach Paul Maurice says Armia will be out at least a week with the injury. Maurice added he hopes Kosmachuk enjoys himself.

“It’s a big game for them in their lives. For their family, their peewee coaches… it takes so many people to help a player get to the NHL,” said Maurice. “I’ve never told a guy just relax and try not to be nervous.

“I tell them the opposite, take it all in, be nervous, be thankful, and grateful before that puck drops… (Then) just go out and play. Don’t think about anything else other than the game you know how to play.”

This is the third emergency recall the Jets have made since Mar. 4. JC Lipon was the first of those three, and recorded his first NHL point in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Defenceman Tyler Myers says the influx of young players in the room has increased the need for communication.

“A lot of learning is going on right now, a lot of development. It’s good to get young guys (some) experience,” said Myers. “For us guys that have been in the league a little bit it’s just a matter of us trying to communicate to them as much as possible to try and help them progress as fast as they can.

“If they have questions making sure we dial it in and get on the same page. I think for them, just playing will be a big part of the change for them.”

Young players or not, the Jets will have their hands full against the Predators tonight. Nashville (33-21-12) has points in 12 straight games, going 8-0-4 in that span. They’re also strong on the road against Canadian teams, where they’re 7-0-1. That overtime loss came at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets.

“They’re a good team over there, they play a tight game. They don’t give much up,” said Myers. “It’s going to be important for us to give a consistent effort right from the start all the way to that last buzzer.”

The Predators currently hold down the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference, six points clear of the Minnesota Wild.

Filip Forsberg has been a big reason for the Nashville surge. His 28 goals lead the Predators, and tied for eighth in the NHL in that category.

“He’s a smart player. He puts himself in really good positions to get a prime shot off, and he’s accurate with his shot. Especially on that power play he makes some big skilled plays,” Myers said. “They have a few guys over there, but talking about him, he’s obviously one of their more skilled players and we’re going to have to limit his time and space.”

But the Jets have their own player making some noise in the league of late. Mark Scheifele was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week yesterday, with six goals and seven points in his last four games.

“The shift for me this year is Mark has become a driver on the team. Last year with Wheeler and Stafford there were times the veterans are clearly helping him along and making him a better player,” said Maurice. “Now, when you can take a look at a guy… that the personnel around him changes, and anybody who plays with him plays their best hockey, then you’ve got a driver. A guy that can push the people he’s with.”

Scheifele will once again be on a line with Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler tonight. Wheeler, who continues to lead the Jets in points with 59, says he’s seen a lot of growth in Scheifele this season.

“When he gets in those scoring areas, he’s a little more assertive. You can tell his confidence is there with the puck, and that’s a good thing,” said Wheeler. “I feel like he and I can play off each other pretty well. I can get him in those areas. He’s got that quick release and it’s tough to stop.”

Scheifele has seen his ice time increase significantly since Bryan Little’s injury in Tampa Bay Feb. 18. Since that night, Scheifele has played over 20 minutes in five of his last seven games. Prior to that, Scheifele only hit the 20 minute mark once this season.

“He’s played against some pretty solid competition recently. (Connor) McDavid is a pretty tough match up right now,” said Wheeler. “The game before that was Montreal, and playing against guys like (Jaromir) Jagr the night before that, and (Sidney) Crosby in Pittsburgh. He’s had to go toe-to-toe with some pretty good centre men and he’s done a great job.”

Tonight’s match up concludes the season series with the Predators, and also completes a five-game home stand for the Jets.

Puck drop is 7 pm CT.

-- Mitchell Clinton,

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