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Perreault a possibility, Pavelec to start Sunday

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets


WINNIPEGMathieu Perreault could be back in the lineup tomorrow as the Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of a four-game home stand.

Perreault, who’s been out for the past month-and-a-half (16 games) with a lower-body injury, skated at centre, alongside Chris Thorburn and Matt Halischuk at Saturday’s practice.

“I feel good – really good,” Perreault said. “I had a full practice and didn’t feel it at all. … I feel like I can get back in, so it’s going to come down to what the coaches decide. From what they’ve told me, it’s looking good.”

Perreault had already tied a career-high in goals (18) and was on pace for a new personal best in points at the time of the injury. He has 36 points in 56 games, needing eight in the final stretch to surpass his previous high of 43, set last season as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

“You’ve got to take it slow,” Perreault said. “I don’t expect to come back and play 20 minutes – and I don’t think my body could take it, anyway. It’s about getting some minutes and getting back into game shape. … I’ve been working out and skating hard, so it’s not like I’m too far off. It’s going
to take maybe two or three games and I’ll be right back to where I was.”

Head Coach Paul Maurice says that if Perreault comes back to the rink tomorrow morning feeling “at least as good,” he’ll play. Ben Chiarot (hand) and the teams’ top line centre, Bryan Little (upper body) are knocking on the door as well, and could be available to play within the next few days.

“They all got through practice today,” Maurice said. “Both Ben and Bryan have to get pushed once or twice in practice before they’re cleared. Matty may be available – he’s listed as ‘possible’ for tomorrow.”

Little was back in regular colours today after a three-week stint in the unsightly, non-contact insignia.

PAVELEC TO START

Maurice declared the red-hot Ondrej Pavelec as the starting goaltender for tomorrow’s pivotal Central Division matchup.

Pavelec is undefeated in his last six starts, posting a sparkling save percentage of .964.

“He’s fresh, ready and playing the best hockey I’ve seen him play,” Maurice said.

Michael Hutchinson has started all four previous meetings with the Blackhawks this season, winning 1-0, 5-1 and 4-2 before dropping a 2-1 decision in overtime.

The Jets are only four points back of the Hawks for third in the division, pending the outcome of tonight’s game between the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings.

With a 39-24-12 record for 90 points on the year, the Jets are currently in a playoff spot, three points up on the Calgary Flames.

NEW COPP ON THE FORCE

A few days after a signing a three-year entry-level contact, forward prospect Andrew Copp took part in his first professional practice earlier today. The 20-year-old product of Ann Arbour recently completed his junior year with the University of Michigan Wolverines, reporting directly to the Jets after finishing his college career with 81 points (40G, 41A) in 107 games over three seasons.

Serving as Michigan’s captain this past season, Copp, an All-Big Ten second-team selection, recorded a career-best 31 points (14G, 17A), finishing third in team scoring.

Copp was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round, 104th overall, in 2013.

"I feel like I’m ready to play at this level,” Copp said of the decision to forgo his senior year. “I’m looking forward to the experience of being around the team, learning from the guys in the
room and being a part of the playoff push.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound pivot won’t have any issue fitting into the room. He’s a longtime friend and teammate of Jacob Trouba, who was smiling ear-to-ear when asked about his childhood chum.

“I’m pretty excited that he’s here,” Trouba said. “His dad was my coach for about six years and we started playing together in the fifth grade. He’s definitely happy and it’s a big step in his career,
so I’m trying to help him s much as I can.”

“That makes all the difference in the world,” Maurice added of their friendship. “If you’ve got one guy that can show you the ropes, take you out for dinner after games and make you feel a part of it, that’s your ‘in.’ He doesn’t need 10 best friends when he walks in. It’s almost a perfect situation
for him.”

It isn’t clear if Copp will see any playing time, but with the potential for injuries and other uncontrollable factors, Maurice is keeping the door open.

“He looks like a powerful young fella. Anytime you get to wear a C for an institution like Michigan, you know you’ve got the character right. The plan is to integrate him into the group and get him up to speed as quickly as possible. We’ll see what happens. Depth as centre is always welcomed.”

— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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