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Traffic at the net key to generating 'A' chances

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG – Seven times this season the Winnipeg Jets have put up 35-plus shots and come out on the wrong end of a close game.

Three of those were 40-plus efforts, including the infamous 3-1 loss to Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 21 – a night when the Jets manufactured a season-high 45 attempts on goal, and more ‘Grade A’ scoring opportunities, according to Head Coach Paul Maurice, than they’ve had
in a single game all season.

“We’ve made a lot of goalies look hot lately,” a disgruntled Blake Wheeler mused following Sunday’s 44-shot, 4-2 defeat at the hands of the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

Preceded by a team meeting, the Jets were back on the ice Monday at MTS Centre working to resolve that issue. A common theme surfacing in the room was the topic of traffic, and how the team needs more of it at the net to create higher quality scoring chances.

“We are getting pucks to the net, so we want to get more action off what we consider (‘Grade) A’ chances,” Maurice said. “We had a high shot total in Edmonton and a real high ‘A’ chance total. We had a high shot total last night, but not a lot of ‘A’ chances and not a lot of pucks came back off the goaltender.”

Drew Stafford, who finished the night with four shots, agreed that Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark had too easy a time tracking pucks and smothering the rebounds.

“We definitely generated a lot. We outshot them by quite a large margin, but we didn’t really get a lot of traffic. That’s what we talked about today.

“Today’s a new day. Sun came up, so we’re out here doing what we need to do to get better. Of course it’s frustrating. We’re not happy about it. But at the same time you’ve got to keep moving on, you’ve got to keep moving forward. Teams aren’t waiting for us to get better. They’re coming in and they need the points, too. There are no easy games, so it’s on us to work on this and hopefully
break through.”

The Jets were a disappointed group following Sunday’s loss, knowing they could have gained ground and pulled to within two points of a playoff spot. But with eight of their next nine games on home
ice, no one’s panicking just yet.

“The end of the road trip is when you’ll know how good your road trip was, and at the end of your home stand is when you know how good that was,” Maurice said. “We can do better things and
we’re going to need to.”

Within the next week, the Jets have three games against teams they’re chasing in the standings – all on home ice: Jan. 14 and 21 against the Nashville Predators, who currently hold that second and
final wild card spot, and Jan. 18 against the Colorado Avalanche.

INJURY/ROSTER UPDATES

After leaving the game late in the third period last night, Mathieu Perreault (undisclosed) is listed as “probable” for tomorrow’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Perreault took a hit from Sabres defenceman Jake McCabe late in the second period, left the game, but did return for the third, only to leave again with about three minutes remaining after falling awkwardly near the Buffalo net.

“We’ll get him through the morning skate (tomorrow) but he feels good,” Maurice said.

The update on Mark Scheifele was not as positive.

The 22-year-old suffered a lower-body injury after twisted up in the blue paint during the overtime period of Thursday’s loss to the Dallas Stars. He will not play tomorrow and could be out as long as a week before returning to practice.

“He had some tests done after the pre-game skate (Sunday),” Maurice said. “That was the first time he’d had some tests done and we didn’t really like the result of that, so I don’t have him in the
game tomorrow.”

Finally, defenceman Paul Postma has been assigned to the Manitoba Moose (AHL) on a two-week (“or less”) conditioning stint. Postma has only appeared in two games all season, with his last action coming over two months ago in Minnesota.

“We wanted to get him into some games, get him playing again,” Maurice said.

– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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