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Morrissey named alternate captain, Beaulieu out with upper-body injury

Monday's practice day spent on special teams ahead of Thursday's season opener

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - After a 60-minute practice inside Bell MTS Place, head coach Paul Maurice had a short list of updates. As the old saying goes, he had good news and he had bad news.

The good news is that Josh Morrissey will be an alternate captain going forward. The 24-year-old defenceman joins the Jets leadership group that includes Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien as alternate captains with Blake Wheeler as captain.

It has been an eventful month for Morrissey, who signed an eight-year extension back on Sept. 12.

"He's a top-notch person and is always willing to give back to the community and is always willing to do things for others on his team," General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said at the time of the extension. "The biggest thing for us is the way he's come about becoming the player he has… What you've seen with him is development, right from the moment we drafted him."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Unfortunately, the announcement was followed by some bad news as well.

Nathan Beaulieu will be out four weeks with an upper-body injury he sustained against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. Beaulieu played 18:18 in the game, including 5:28 on the penalty kill. Beaulieu will be placed on injured reserve to start the season.

Bryan Little was also injured in that game due to a hit from Wild forward Luke Kunin in the first period.

Maurice said Little sustained a concussion on the play and is in protocol, there is no timeline for his return.

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Power Play Units

This was the first practice where the Jets had the opportunity to do some extended power play work, especially with camp being focused on four or five key themes, mostly on even strength and rush defence.

Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine, fresh off signing their new contracts, were back on the top unit with Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Morrissey.

"It's always good to get those reps in. We didn't have a full power play unit until today," said Scheifele, who scored 12 times on the man advantage last season - the second most on the team. 

"It's good to be back getting those guys some touches and getting us some touches as well. It's good to have that power play unit back together."

With Byfuglien still away on a personal leave of absence, the left-handed Morrissey gives a bit of a different look to the Jets power play, which most often had the right-handed Byfuglien in that spot last season.

"It changes the passing angles up top," Maurice said, referencing that the one-timer side for Josh is a pass from Laine, whereas for Byfuglien that pass comes from Wheeler.

"We felt with our power play, that was something. They started to either really press Blake on one side or leave him and close out the one-timer shooters. We needed a shooter up top that would find the holes in the lane. We think Josh can excel there."

The second unit featured Ville Heinola, Neal Pionk, Mathieu Perreault, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Jack Roslovic.

However, there is some flexibility to that unit, as Little will also see time with that group as well - when healthy. 

"Scheifs' group goes out and they end up taking a minute and a half of zone time - they're in zone, the entire time," said Maurice. "Once the clock hits 20 (seconds) I'm going two D. We'll run two D out because this game is going to five-on-five and you don't want to get a forward trapped. We have a four forward and three-forward plan. With Bryan out, we're running two D."

Video: PRACTICE | Blake Wheeler

Line Rushes

Seven defencemen took part in Tuesday's skate, so there were no definite pairings throughout the one-hour session.

The forwards lined up like this:

Ehlers-Scheifele-Wheeler

Connor-Copp-Laine

Perreault-Lowry-Bourque

Appleton-Letestu-Roslovic

Gustafsson

Copp said he's looking forward to playing between Connor and Laine.

"I think we can complement each other pretty well in terms of our different styles of play and what we can each bring to the table," said Copp. "It should be a good opportunity to play with two of the best offensive players in the league and hopefully we can find some chemistry right away."

While Copp is used to having Adam Lowry in the middle, the duo will be reunited on the penalty kill.

"I know where he's going to be. He knows where I'm going to be," Copp said. "I know what he's looking to read so I can counter off him. A lot of comfortability between the two of us and I'm really looking forward to that tandem for the rest of the year."

Video: PRACTICE | Andrew Copp

Waiver Wire

Beaulieu's injury left the Jets looking for a way to add depth to the blue line. So Cheveldayoff got right to work, claiming 24-year-old defenceman Carl Dahlstrom from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Maurice is familiar with Dahlstrom and watched a fair amount of video on the Swedish blue liner.

"We got some really good intel from people that have coached him. He's a big man that skates well for a big man. He's a defender and a gap-closer," said Maurice. "A lot of the things that we've tried to, I don't want to say implement, but get better at in our training camp, we think he can excel at."

Dahlstrom played in 38 games for the Blackhawks last season, recording six assists and averaging over 18 minutes in ice time. But it was who the majority of that ice time was against that caught Maurice's eye.

"When we went in there with four games left, he played against Scheif," said Maurice. "Go back three or four games, against Colorado he plays against MacKinnon. When he plays Pittsburgh, he's against Malkin. When you've got a younger group there in Chicago, if the coach keeps matching that guy up against the other team's best, we like that."

Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele

However, the Jets also lost a popular personality, as goaltender Eric Comrie was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Coyotes.

"If you've spent any time with him, he's just a world class kid that works. He's done everything absolutely right," said Maurice. "He just timed an organization that had some veteran guys ahead of him. He'll go and get a chance to be in the National Hockey League. He's worked hard at his game. 

"We wish him nothing but the best. We'd certainly take him back in a heartbeat. He's a wonderful guy."

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