The seal on the Winnipeg Jets’ top-secret list of players’ injuries was broken Tuesday — and no shocking revelations were revealed.
What ailed the NHL club was pretty much a garden-variety assortment of hurts during an intense Stanley Cup playoff run, including bumps and bruises from shot blocks, bodychecks and major spills, bouts with the flu and the always-fascinating but hard to quantify “general malaise.”
Nikolaj Ehlers admitted he was under the weather in Game 3 in Las Vegas last Wednesday.
“I wanted to play, but when you lay in bed for two straight days you’re not sure how much you can help the team, so it was a tough decision,” the speedy winger said. “Everybody hates not playing in the conference final, so I was trying my hardest to play, but wasn’t there.”
The Danish-born forward also missed the April 20 deciding game in the first round against the Minnesota Wild.
“Malaise,” he said, with a laugh. “That was the malaise.”
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said the most serious injuries occurred earlier in the season, while the aches and pains of the post-season were of the minor variety.
“We dealt with the big bulk of our major injuries in the year. And so there were some maintenance issues that came off those guys going in. We’ll probably have four or five players doing MRIs here over the next day or two, next week. Then decisions will have to be made on the best way to rehab those players,” Maurice said. “Dmitry Kulikov (back injury) is going to get looked at again. But we don’t have anybody that would have, even if it went to a surgical option, that it would be any issue for training camp. So there’s nothing long-term there.
“We’re talking about scopes, getting things cleaned up if we need to. Decisions still need to be made, shoulders, knees, things like that. But none of it would be beyond a four-week, real quick turnaround.”
Josh Morrissey limped off the ice at least once during every playoff game after blocking a shot or taking a hit to make a play, but rarely missed a shift. He said he’s sore but nothing’s busted.
“Everybody’s sacrificing out there to try to do everything they can to help the team win. You look in the training room after games, there’s a lot of ice packs for sure throughout the playoffs,” he said. “You hope that, specifically with shot-blocking, that it hits you on the right spot. I put on the shot-blockers (protective skate covers), and I don’t think it ever hit the shot-blocker once. It seemed to go everywhere else.”
Morrissey got no sympathy from his blue-line partner Tuesday during the last meeting of the season with the media.
“He was faking that for attention,” Jacob Trouba said. “And now you’re giving him some.”
While the Jets suffer the lingering pain of getting drop-kicked from the playoffs by the Golden Knights, Andrew Copp is dealing with an added layer of frustration.
He was on the outside looking in when the team’s season came to a sudden halt.
Copp was one of three players head coach Paul Maurice stripped from his Game 5 roster Sunday afternoon against Vegas at Bell MTS Place.
Copp, who played all 82 regular-season games and 16 straight post-season contests, said missing an opportunity to help impact the outcome of an elimination game hurt at the time, and the ache has yet to subside.
“It was really, really tough. Playing every single game all year, and not being able to play for your season at the end was something that stung. It’s almost worse watching at the end, because you feel like you didn’t do everything you possibly could have,” said Copp. “In a game like that, you just want to be out there with the guys and fighting until the end. That was a real bummer.
“You’re in the fight. You feel like you have a lot of ownership of this team, and then to not be able to battle it out at the end when we’re fighting for our lives, it’s really hard,” he added. “It’ll sit with me for a while. I don’t know when that’ll go away.”
Copp fired nine goals and added 19 assists in a checking role with the Jets during the season. He chipped in a goal and two assists in the playoffs.
He and centre Adam Lowry worked effectively together, along with revolving right-wingers Brandon Tanev and Joel Armia, to lessen the damage inflicted by opponents’ top offensive trios. However, despite considerable offensive-zone time of their own, scoring goals proved to be a tough task.
On Tuesday, Copp said he didn’t get a firm answer on why he was scratched but made it clear he supported Maurice for making personnel moves he felt were necessary to spark the Jets and extend the series.
“He’s the coach and he makes the decisions and you’ve got to respect his decision. But that was definitely really tough to swallow,” said Copp.
“We didn’t really get too much into it. He just kind of told me he was taking me out. It’s not like we have bad players in our room. Every guy has contributed at some point in the year to a big extent to get us here. We have tremendous depth. So, we didn’t really get into too many specifics.”
Winnipeg’s favourite beard is almost Finnished.
Even as most of his teammates have already gone for the clean-shaven look since Sunday’s playoff lost to Vegas, the sandy-blond hair on Patrik Laine’s chinny-chin-chin remains.
But only for a few more days.
“The woman who cuts my hair, she’s going to cut my beard, too, on Friday at 2 (p.m.) back home. So, a couple more days,” said Jets’ 20-year-old sniper, who hails from Tampere, Finland.
News of the upcoming appointment with a stylist was met with a wisecrack from Laine’s linemate and best buddy, who muttered what everyone else has been thinking.
“Yeah, finally… finally,” said Nikolaj Ehlers.
Contrary to high demand, the event won’t be streamed live on pay-per-view.
Almost to a man, the Jets gave a final shoutout to the Whiteout.
From the pandemonium inside Bell MTS Place, to thousands more watching on huge TV screens along downtown streets, to Go Jets Go signs adorning the windows of businesses citywide, to team jerseys and hats worn at work, play and even church, Winnipeg hockey fans gave it their all during the squad’s exhilarating post-season run.
It did not go unnoticed by the players, or their bosses.
“It’s pretty incredible. We know that we have terrific fans and terrific support. Every game it seemed like the Whiteout party was getting bigger. More and more people were getting on board and really getting behind this team. We know we have the support but it seemed like they were showing it every day,” said centre Adam Lowry.
“We were happy that we were able to give them a long run. They certainly deserve it. They stuck with us through some thin years. Hopefully, this is just the start of something where we continue to get better and continue to push to get back to this spot every year.”
Bryan Little said it was no secret Jets fever spread well outside Manitoba’s borders.
“I was getting messages from friends and family back home (in Ontario) all through the playoffs, that they were rooting for you and everyone is ‘watching you guys.’ It was amazing support. You don’t realize how special it was until it was kind of over,” said Little.
“In the summer, you can reflect on that a bit more. At the time, you’re just amazed by the support in the city.”
Laine said he was amazed to watch as the passion of playoff hockey flooded the community.
“Well, it’s hard to describe if you actually haven’t played in the playoffs. You can always watch the playoffs on TV and it all looks cool and it’s intense, but it’s just something different. Like the whole atmosphere is just like another level, especially here with the Whiteout and with all the street parties, so it’s pretty unique,” he said.
“I think this is the reason why we play hockey so we can still be playing playoff hockey in May. It was just probably a year that I will always remember, especially the playoffs.”
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