RALEIGH, North Carolina - After leading his team through a 45-minute practice at PNC Arena, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice gave an update on veteran defenceman Mark Stuart, who will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand.
“We knew he had gotten hurt, didn’t feel he needed it x-rayed. Somehow, he played the game that he played, which was as good of a game that he’s played in a number of weeks,” said Maurice. “I don’t know how he did it. After the game he said he should probably get it looked at - and it’s broken.
Stuart, 31, has played in all 55 games the Jets have played this season. The injury occurred in the opening period of the Jets 2-1 shootout win over Edmonton, but the gritty blue liner finished the game.
“That’s really a big part of what Mark brings to the group. It’s such a quiet leadership thing, that you just fight through everything,” said Maurice. “Whether the game isn’t going your way, or battles in front of the net, and the other team knows he’s bringing that as well. Playing on the injury he played on, is quite a feat.”
Adam Pardy skated along side Jacob Trouba in practice today, filling the spot left open by Stuart.
“The boys need you. That’s the only thing you’ve got to worry about,” said Pardy. “You can’t worry about all the outside stuff, the last few months, how things have gone. At this point you’ve just got to forget it, let it go, and play for these guys in here. It’s the only way to play this game.
“You have to play hard for those guys because you know they need you.”
Pardy has played one game (Jan. 15 vs the Wild) since Nov. 28. The 31-year-old says jumping back in at this time of year won’t be easy. He’ll rely on communication with his teammates, and a simple game plan.
“I think the hardest part is going to be game speed. Getting right back in there after that long of a lay off, and where everybody is at in their seasons right now,” he said. “After 50 games, it’s usually at that point of the season where things pick up, the pace picks up, the intensity picks up. Coming in at this point is going to be very tough. But you have to trust your instincts and just go play hockey.”
Maurice plans to put the left-handed Pardy in the line-up to help keep the other defensive pairings the same. The coaching staff has liked what they’ve seen from the combinations of Dustin Byfuglien-Toby Enstrom, and Ben Chiarot-Tyler Myers pairs. The coach agrees with Pardy that simplicity will be important in tomorrow’s season series finale against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“Simplicity in the game is the key, and it is a challenge,” said Maurice. “We’ll get a good feel for how hard he’s pushed himself in practice and how ready he is, then he’s just going to have to keep the game as simple as he can.”
“The pressure is already there. To add pressure to yourself, you’re not doing yourself a favour,” said Pardy. “I’m naturally a pretty calm person in pressure situations. I’ll be fine. I’m not really worried about it. I’m going to prepare like I always prepare and put a little extra focus into this one.
"Focus on your game, and do the things that you know how to do. Just try not to get outside yourself and try too many things out there. As long as I’m playing solid defensively and not hurting this team on that side of the puck, the other things will come from there.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com