There is a certain game with Laurent Brossoit’s name on it — but no one’s saying if tonight’s the night.
Winnipeg’s backup goalie has been a patient spectator, while his creasemate, Connor Hellebuyck, started the first four games of the NHL season. Those included games against a pair of Central Division foes, the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, back to back on the road, a meeting at home with the always-tough Los Angeles Kings and a nasty battle with the all-too-familiar Nashville Predators.
Coming away with a split (2-2-0), the Jets now play six straight on home ice, and the Carolina Hurricanes (3-0-1) provide the first test. They square off at 6 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.
Neither Brossoit nor his coach, Paul Maurice, would divulge if he’ll get the call to face much-improved Carolina.
“Closing in on it, man,” the Jets bench boss said when reminded he’d stated he had a game in mind for the former Edmonton Oiler, who was signed to a one-year deal July 1.
Maurice said Brossoit had sound outings in the pre-season and has been working hard to maintain his sharpness.
“I liked him in his performances and his practices, really pleased with where he’s at,” he said.
Brossoit, 25, said he’s ready, willing and able to assume the position between the pipes — whenever that top-secret information gets out.
“Yeah, right from the get-go. (I) felt good in pre-season, and it was nice to get into three games and then having that feeling obviously propels that motivation to get into the net as soon as possible. Feeling good in practice, too, so any time is a good time,” he said, noting goalie Cam Talbot played five or six games before he got his first starting assignment last season with the Oilers.
In 2017-18, Brossoit made 14 appearances (3.26 goals-against average, .883 save percentage) for the Oilers as Talbot’s backup, but lost his job when Al Montoya was acquired.
Since training camp, he’s had time to get acquainted with new teammates and surroundings.
“I see a ton of potential, potential that’s obviously reached expectation, a strong back end and a hell of a goalie that’s playing Vezina-style hockey right from the get-go, and a lot of offence. We’ve got everything you need in a team,” Brossoit said. “I’m learning that you focus on what’s in your control. You don’t go above and beyond that and try too hard and go out of your way and make things even tougher on yourself… and whenever you get your start, you get your start.”
Nic Petan skated with his teammates for the first time on Saturday since early in training camp. He joined the Jets’ two extra forwards, Brendan Lemieux and Marko Dano, on line drills.
The 23-year-old had been on indefinite leave from the club, with the NHL’s approval, following the death of his father in British Columbia on Sept. 18.
A roster move will likely need to be made soon, as the team can only keep a maximum of 23 players. Petan is no longer waiver-exempt if he were assigned to the Manitoba Moose.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he’s not sure about a timeframe when the league might compel the club to make a decision.
“My understanding is not yet. That may change today, they have to agree upon when Nic becomes that full roster spot,” he said.
Maurice was glad to see Petan rejoin the group.
“I think being around the players, being in the room, being on the ice, it’s a real important piece of normalcy for him, and I’m sure he enjoyed being back,” he said.
Hurricanes’ sensational young star Sebastian Aho has a PR agent, of sorts, in Winnipeg.
Jets winger Patrik Laine raved Saturday about his friend and fellow countryman, a day before the two were scheduled to face each other at Bell MTS Place.
“He’s just kind of one step ahead of everybody. Before he gets the puck, he already knows what to do with it and where to put it. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with,” Laine said.
Aho, 21, enters the contest with a pair of goals and four helpers in four games for the Atlantic Division squad. He had 24 goals and 49 points in his rookie season (2016-17), and was even better in his sophomore campaign, firing 29 goals and adding 36 assists.
“He’s so easy to play with. He has a lot of skill, he’s quick and he can still score. He’s not just a dangler who can only pass. He’s a good shooter as well,” added Laine, who was on a powerful line centred by Aho, along with winger Jesse Puljujarvi, when Finland won gold at the 2016 world junior hockey championship in Helsinki.
Winnipeg’s penalty-killing unit certainly needed some work after allowing three Dallas power-play tallies in a 5-1 loss last weekend.
But nine opportunities to hone its skills? Call it major overkill.
The Jets extinguished nine Nashville power-play chances on Thursday, although the Predators still prevailed 3-0. Forward Andrew Copp, a regular contributor to the short-handed unit, said they made the very best of a bad situation.
“It’s huge. You get that first one — especially for me personally, because my PK night in Dallas wasn’t great — you get the first one, the second one and then you start rolling. We’ve worked hard on it, in video and in practice over the last week now, and it’s good the results showed,” he said.
“Anytime you’re in a system for an extended period of time, you’re going to not have to think as much and just kind of react. You’re just going instead of thinking, I need to go now. Reading your partner is important, and we’re starting to get our chemistry down. There’s definitely parts of that, for sure.”
Winnipeg also erased both Los Angeles power-play chances in a 2-1 victory over the visiting Kings on Tuesday. The PK crew has been efficient on 17 of 20 man disadvantages.
“Our last two games have been as good as we’ve had it, possibly ever, when you hit the amount of time that we did in Nashville against a real strong power-play unit,” Maurice said. “I like the penalty kill, the aggressiveness, as much as any point in time.
“We didn’t spend nearly as much time in structure, where four guys are just relying on their sticks to knock down passing lanes, there was far more pressure on the puck, and that’s the way it’s supposed to look.”
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).