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Morrissey expected to play for Jets in Game 1 against Blues

Defenseman had missed final 20 games of regular season with upper-body injury

by Scott Billeck / NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Josh Morrissey is expected to play for the Winnipeg Jets against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS3, FS-MW).

The defenseman missed the final 20 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury sustained on a hit by Arizona Coyotes forward Vinnie Hinostroza on Feb. 24.

"As far as I know I'm cleared now, back in the full contact jersey," Morrissey said practicing Monday. "No hesitations or anything like that. As far as I know it's just night one seeing how things go. That's where I'm at."

 

[Complete Jets vs. Blues series coverage]

 

The Jets were 10-9-1 without Morrissey in the lineup.

"He's one of our best guys back there," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "He does so much good playing against the other team's best players."

Morrissey had been among Winnipeg's most durable defenseman, playing in 163 of a possible 164 regular-season games the previous two seasons.

"It's kind of funny how sometimes you take hits and block shots and things like that, and sometimes it's a pretty bad pain and it goes away pretty fast," Morrissey said of the Hinostroza hit. "Unfortunately that one obviously didn't go away as fast as I thought it might when I went down the tunnel. I was hoping to come back and play in a few minutes. It obviously was more severe than I hoped it was. That's all part of it I guess. It was definitely tough."

Morrissey is expected to be back with Jacob Trouba on the team's top pairing.

"He's a special player … Josh brings his own element to the game," Trouba said. "His ability to skate, he's elusive, he can make moves in the D-zone, break the puck out. He's got that extra part to his game that not a lot of guys have."

Video: WPG@COL: Morrissey saves goal after Hellebuyck stop

Morrissey's return means the Jets will their full defense corps intact to begin the playoffs. Dustin Byfuglien had missed 34 of 39 games since Dec. 30 and March 29 after two separate lower-body injuries. Byfuglien has been back playing with Ben Chiarot, while Tyler Myers has been with Dmitry Kulikov.

The Jets relied heavily on Nathan Beaulieu, who they acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL Trade Deadline, and rookie Sami Niku during Morrisey's absence.

Coach Paul Maurice said Morrissey had been asking to play during the Jets' four-game road trip that ended the regular season, but the decision was made to hold him out.

"He's ready to go," Maurice said. "With the group that we have on our back end, it's not the typical hard match where we're pulling defensemen off the ice anyway. He goes in and plays; we monitor shift length more than minutes."

Maurice said he liked Beaulieu's play and that it won't be easy if he has to scratch him from Game 1.

"He's played really hard and helped us win some games," Maurice said.

Morrissey believes he can step right back into his role, even with the added playoff intensity. Managing his emotions, he said, will be the hardest part.

"When you get on the ice in Game 1 of the playoffs, the emotion goes to another level that you haven't seen all year," he said. "That adrenaline's firing. So I think it'll be more so trying to keep it simple, not trying to do too much. Just try to get back into the rhythm of things as fast as possible ... falling on the little details of your game that make any players successful."

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