Hellebuyck gets the start in Jets’ net

HELSINKI — Connor Hellebuyck is the Winnipeg Jets’ No. 1 guy, so the crease is his today.

Depending on workload and the Michigan product’s insistence, he could play Friday as well.

Hellebuyck gets the starting assignment when the Jets face the Florida Panthers in the first of back-to-back games at Hartwall Arena, site of the 2018 NHL Global Series.

“Connor’s going, and I don’t have a plan for (after) that because Connor likes to play a lot of games,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice told reporters following Wednesday’s practice.

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HELSINKI — Connor Hellebuyck is the Winnipeg Jets’ No. 1 guy, so the crease is his today.

Depending on workload and the Michigan product’s insistence, he could play Friday as well.

Hellebuyck gets the starting assignment when the Jets face the Florida Panthers in the first of back-to-back games at Hartwall Arena, site of the 2018 NHL Global Series.

“Connor’s going, and I don’t have a plan for (after) that because Connor likes to play a lot of games,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice told reporters following Wednesday’s practice.

“We have a real good relationship with Connor Hellebuyck, and if he bangs the table and says he needs it, that he has to go back in, I’ll consider it.”

While Hellebuyck could return to the net 24 hours later, the club also has a rested Laurent Brossoit at its disposal, and he’s unbeaten in three starts.

Winnipeg’s bench boss said he’s leaning in the direction of playing his backup Friday, but that plan could change if last year’s Vezina Trophy candidate has an easy night between the pipes against the struggling Panthers.

“If Connor gets out there and feels really good, we’re not worried about fatigue and we don’t play until next (Friday), then I know he’s made the time-zone change. It will be volume, too; if he gets into the 40s (shots), we might want to be careful of that,” Maurice said.

“The open door on that is that Laurent has been so good in volume games. He’s just played so well.”

● ● ●

Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva via AP</p><p>Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine will be matched against fellow Tampere, Finland-native Aleksander Barkov when the Jets take on the Florida Panthers Thursday and Friday.</p>

Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva via AP

Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine will be matched against fellow Tampere, Finland-native Aleksander Barkov when the Jets take on the Florida Panthers Thursday and Friday.

Winnipeg Jets royalty was in the house on Wednesday.

Teppo Numminen, 50, a remarkably steady performer on the Jets 1.0 blue line for eight seasons, stood near the glass at Hartwall Arena while Winnipeg’s current batch of pros worked out.

Once the club moved south to Phoenix in 1996, Numminen played another seven seasons with the Coyotes. The Tampere, Finland, product also had a short stop with the Dallas Stars, and finished his career with four years as a player in Buffalo and two seasons as a Sabres assistant coach.

Spotted near the Jets’ locker room after practice was NHL Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne, whose record 76-goal rookie season in 1992-93 might never be eclipsed. The Finnish Flash, 48, from Helsinki, played 21 seasons in the NHL with the Jets, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche, and won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.

The two gents are rumoured to be dropping ceremonial pucks prior to the Jets-Panthers battles.

● ● ●

Wednesday’s practices were open to the public, and a few thousand fans were in the building, with all eyes on Florida’s brilliant two-way centre Aleksander Barkov and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, who fired 80 goals in his first two seasons and has three in his first dozen games this year.

Both young stars hail from Tampere, Finland.

A cursory assessment of the crowd indicated the blue 29 jerseys outnumbered the red 16s.

“I know there’s a lot of young kids who probably didn’t see me play in Finland when I had left already and Laine won everything he could win, and scoring goals and the way he is, he’s just really popular guy here in Finland,” said Barkov, three years Laine’s senior. “He’s a really good guy, a fun guy to be around. So I don’t really care about him being more popular than me. But, of course, I want to win those games, and I want to score more goals than him, but we’ll see.”

The two are friends off the ice and have shared at least one meal together — a chicken wing feast — since the teams arrived Sunday. Barkov, 23, calls the wings “legendary” at Siipiweikot in Helsinki.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
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).

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