“This smile hasn’t left my face now since yesterday when I got the call, and this morning when Paul told me when I was in, it was pretty exciting,” Morrissey said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of work to get to this point. It’s so exciting.”
After being recalled from the Manitoba Moose yesterday along with JC Lipon, Morrissey will play his first NHL game tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
“First shift for sure is going to be exciting. I’m definitely going to be nervous and have some butterflies for sure. I think once you get out there and get the first shift out of the way, just settle into the game and play my game, and have fun with it,” said Morrissey. “That’s what Paul (Maurice) said, just embrace it. You only get one of these so I’m going to try and have fun with it and enjoy the night.”
Morrissey has 22 points in 56 games with the Manitoba Moose in his first full professional hockey season. Maurice says the stage is set for the 20-year-old to enjoy his first taste of the National Hockey League.
“I’m hoping he enjoys the heck out of tonight. It’s Saturday night, you’re playing the Montreal Canadiens, he’s a Canadian kid, (his) mom and dad are coming. I hope he soaks it all up and enjoys every minute of it,” said Maurice.
“He’s a smooth defenceman. He skates well, moves the puck well, and sees the ice well. This is going to be a whole lot faster than any exhibition game that he would have played or any game in the American League, so we’re going to take that skill set, apply it to an NHL game and see how he does.”
Paired up with Morrissey tonight is Tyler Myers. The two have some common history, as both suited up for the Kelowna Rockets earlier in their careers. Morrissey, the Jets 13th overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, even got to meet Myers during Kelowna’s playoff run last season.
“His father-in-law was our skills coach in Kelowna. I was able to see Tyler, and he gave me some stories on him,” said Morrissey. “It was great to be able to meet him and then coming into training camp this year, be a little bit more familiar with him.”
Myers, a veteran of over 450 NHL games, had a quick chat with Morrissey following the pre-game skate. He says communication between the two all night will be important.
“I think for me having more experience than a young guy like that, just talk to him as much as I can on the ice,” said Myers. “Even on the bench if we need to go over something. He skates well, he sees the ice well. It’s the same game, it might be a little faster, I just told him to go out there, play his game, play with confidence, and we’ll go through it together.”
While tonight’s game is a first for Morrissey, it’s also the last set of back-to-back games the Jets will play this season. So far the Jets are 8-3-0 in the first half of those situations, and are looking to avenge a 5-1 loss to the Canadiens back on Nov. 1, 2015.
After starting the season 18-4-3, the Canadiens have had a tough few months, going 12-25-3 since the start of December.
“I think they’ve come out of the grieving process, if you will, of what’s gone on. Now they’re just back to playing hard and trying to play fast,” said Maurice. “Everybody talks about the results but the quality of game against the opponents they’ve played recently is pretty darn good. Those are good teams, they battled hard in those games, looked quick in those games.”
Both teams will be looking to snap out of losing streaks when the puck drops at 6 pm CT. The Canadiens are winless in their last three, while the Jets haven’t won at MTS Centre in their last six.
Snapping that skid all begins with a good start. Morrissey looks to be a part of that, and while he admits there will be some “butterflies” during his first shift, it won’t be close to the emotion his parents will be feeling in the stands.
“It’s a big night for them as well. After all the work they’ve done, and the time they’ve put in taking me to the arena and all the sacrifices they made to get me here,” Morrissey said. “It’s definitely going to be an exciting night for them.”
Maurice also had some good news on the injury front this morning. That good news came from Nikolaj Ehlers, who was told the bleeding in his eye had stopped. While the forward remains out indefinitely, Maurice says they’ll know more about Ehlers’ recovery in a week’s time.
“From now until that time he’s not going to do anything,” said Maurice. “In a week’s time we’ll get an idea where the blood level is in his eye, and go from there.”
Jacob Trouba, who was initially listed as probable for tonight’s game, will not play tonight. But the defenceman did take the morning skate today.
“He skated today knowing that he wasn’t playing tonight,” said Maurice. “He’ll come back to the rink tomorrow, we’ll put him on the ice, and if he feels good, he’s probable for the game tomorrow.”