WINNIPEG - With their First Round match-up with the St. Louis Blues set for Wednesday, it looks like the Winnipeg Jets will be getting defenceman Josh Morrissey back just in time to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"He was knocking on the door at the end of that road trip wanting to play, but we wanted to make sure he's right," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "He's been back in full contact for a week now and feeling strong."
Morrissey missed the final 20 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury he sustained against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 24.
At the time of his injury, Morrissey didn't think he'd miss much time, especially in the immediate aftermath as he made his way down the tunnel to the dressing room.
"It's funny how sometimes you take hits and block shots and it's a pretty bad pain and it goes away pretty fast," said Morrissey. "That one obviously didn't go away as fast as I thought it might when I went down the tunnel and was hoping to come back and play in a few minutes. It was more severe than I hoped it was."
Video: PRACTICE | Josh Morrissey
He described the first couple weeks as the toughest of his rehabilitation.
"It's a long road. Every player that goes through an injury knows that," said Morrissey, who had only missed one regular season game in the past two seasons up until this injury.
"But after that, you start to just get back into the swing of trying to do everything you can to get ready to play."
The 24-year-old Morrissey hit career-highs in assists (25) and points (31) this season, while spending the majority of his time paired with Jacob Trouba.
During Morrissey's absence, Nathan Beaulieu held down the left side with Trouba. Maurice wouldn't get into specifics in terms of what the pairings he'll use with Morrissey back in the fold.
"I really like Nathan's game. He's played hard and helped us win some games," said Maurice, adding every defenceman is going to have a big role in the series.
"With the group that we have on the back end, it's not the typical hard match where we'll pulling defencemen off the ice always. We'll monitor shift length more than minutes."
Despite his best efforts to get a regular season game or two under his belt before the start of the postseason, Morrissey knew it was important to be as healthy as possible for the first game of the playoffs.
The preparation for that game began with the Jets skating for 25 minutes at Bell MTS Iceplex following a video session off the ice.
The challenge in preparing for the Blues is the fact the Jets haven't seen them since Dec. 7 when St. Louis shut out the Jets 1-0. Winnipeg won all of the previous three meetings of the 2018-19 campaign.
Since Jan. 1, the Blues have gone 30-10-5, the best record in the NHL in that span.
"They're a tough defensive team. They're physical. They've got a deep group up front. They play hard. You have to work for every inch of ice you get," said Morrissey. "It's going to be a tough series but we're excited for it. We haven't seen St. Louis in a while but we'll prepare over the next couple of days and be ready to go."
The Jets will be back on practice ice on Tuesday before all the fun gets started on Wednesday night at Bell MTS Place, with game one set for a 7 pm CT puck drop.
"You want the enthusiasm of the crowd and the enthusiasm of the stage to be a big driver because the emotions of playoffs are critical. It's what makes the game different," said Maurice.
"The energy level, the source of energy is so hard to manufacture during the regular season… You get to the playoffs and it's real. You're wired when you get to the rink and you're excited all day. The night before you can feel it coming. It's a good time of year."