WINNIPEG – Instruction was a common theme during the Winnipeg Jets’ 45-minute practice at MTS Centre today, ahead of tomorrow’s match up with the Carolina Hurricanes to close out a six-game home stand.
While this particular stretch at home hasn’t gone the way the Jets would have liked, the difference in each of the games comes down to only a couple plays each night, according to forward Drew Stafford.
“I think we’ve been close. It’s been a matter of a couple coverage reads, and once again maybe getting a couple breaks here and there,” he said. “But we have one more chance against a Carolina team that we know has some skill up front. Hopefully we can take advantage of the way we’ve been playing, the offensive chances we’ve produced. We had maybe three or four breakaways last game that if we put those in, obviously it’s a different story.”
A number of those breakaway opportunities came with the Jets holding a 2-1 lead over the Dallas Stars, who left MTS Centre with a 5-3 win. That game was the first time the Jets had Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, and Drew Stafford all in the line-up since Dec. 27, 2015.
“There are no excuses that we would ever use. Even when you’re a contending team, you’re always going to face adversity. So if that’s the way you handle it, come out and talk about all the things you’re not, you’re never going to get over the hump,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “We have four younger players in our line-up, and in our style we look a little bit different. As we grow and mature, we’ll be able to become a better defensive team with a higher skill level.”
Up next on the schedule is a Carolina team coming off a 4-1 loss in Calgary Tuesday night. At 23-21-8, the Hurricanes are three points out of a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. It will be the first time the Jets have seen an opponent outside of the Western Conference since Jan. 10 against Buffalo.
“You only see them twice a year,” Stafford said of teams from the other conference. “Might be nice to get a bit of a break from the Central style of game. Either way, there are no easy games in this league. The difference between the teams, it’s very small. We’re expecting a tough challenge.”
Ondrej Pavelec continues his road to recovery following the knee injury he suffered back on Nov. 21 against Arizona.
“It’s going really well,” Pavelec said following today’s practice. “I’ve been practicing for a long time. I’m getting closer.”
Maurice doesn’t want to rush Pavelec, citing the risks involved with rushing a player back from injury. He says there is still a ways to go before Pavelec is ready for a full 60-minute hockey game.
“The next step is he’s going to have to hold his own net in a practice and run straight through it,” said Maurice. “I think it’s a matter of days, not weeks, before it at least becomes my decision on when I want to put him in. But it’s not there yet.”
Until that time comes, Pavelec will continue to practice alongside Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. Despite the fact there are three goaltenders on the ice, Pavelec’s approach to practice doesn’t change.
“You’re part of the team. Everybody in the room is part of the team. I don’t feel any different at all,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to go through an entire career without an injury. I wouldn’t say that injury was that serious, that I would be worried about my career. That didn’t happen. But you have to take the time to heal it.”
– Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com