Jets wish Canucks speedy return

The NHL is a small community, and the Winnipeg Jets are among those reaching out to friends on the Vancouver Canucks these days.

The west coast club is currently going through a terrible COVID-19 outbreak that has quickly spread to more than 20 players, coaches and staff members.

“First and foremost we’re worried about their safety, their health and wellness and we hope that they all make full recoveries. That’s the thing at the forefront. Hockey’s second,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said Sunday.

“It’s one of those things where we were all hopeful and tried to do our best to limit the possibility of this becoming a thing or this running through a team like this but obviously it was a risk and seeing how contagious the virus is, things like that, we’re just hoping that they’re near the end of the positive tests and everyone that’s kind of contracted the virus and their family members and things like that, that they make a full recovery.”

The Jets were set to host the Canucks on Sunday and Tuesday at Bell MTS Place, but those games have been postponed indefinitely. Lowry has spoken in recent days with former teammate Tyler Myers, who is among those currently in virus protocol.

“I just check and see how he is and see how some of those guys were doing and I think it’s one of those things, you play with a guy for a while, you become good friends and you’re obviously concerned with their health and safety. Just checking in to make sure they were doing all right. I’ve talked to him a little bit, sent him the best, sending all the guys on the Canucks our best. It’s one of those things where you hate to see it happen to anyone,” said Lowry.

Reports say many of the Canucks players, along with family members, are quite ill right now, including vomiting, nausea and dehydration. They have been impacted by the more serious P.1 variant, which was first found in Brazil.

“It certainly is one of those things that puts things into perspective that you might feel you’re at your best health, or the healthiest you’ve ever been and something like this can come and really knock you down. So it’s important that we continue to follow all the guidelines and do our best to try to minimize the risk not only for ourselves but our families and the communities we live in,” said Lowry.

All NHL teams were sent a strongly worded reminder this weekend of the importance of following strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols as they head into the final month of the regular-season.

“We haven’t seen in Canada this sizable one, and maybe had gotten to a point prior to Montreal where we felt pretty good, pretty safe, pretty isolated up here and it’s something they dealt with in the States but we haven’t had to deal with, and then to have one as big. I’ve really felt here,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.

He credited head athletic therapist Rob Milette for really running a tight ship around the Jets, who dealt with a COVID-19 positive to defenceman Tucker Poolman back in mid-January but were able to contain it without any spread.

“I would have said to you prior to the Vancouver story, I didn’t have a whole lot of concern about our situation. And part of that was in the last month we were on the road so much where you’re even more contained, because you don’t have family members coming in and out of your home,” said Maurice.

“But this one’s kind of said, hey, nobody can relax, and even if you do it right you may suffer some whether it’s bad luck or whatever you want to call it, you just can’t let your foot off the gas pedal in terms of your vigilance and what you’re doing.”

HAPPY HOMECOMING: From the taxi squad with the Winnipeg Jets to having the crease with the injury-ravaged Ottawa Senators after being plucked off the waiver wire, it’s been quite a few weeks for goaltender Anton Forsberg. And there’s a good chance the 28-year-old will be in net on Monday night at Bell MTS Place after recording his first victory with his new club on Saturday in Montreal.

“He’s a super nice guy, for sure. A really hard worker and definitely glad to see him having success with Ottawa. It was nice to see him get a win,” said defenceman Logan Stanley, who got to know Forsberg briefly while also spending time on the taxi squad.

Winnipeg originally grabbed Forsberg off waivers from Edmonton after they lost their third-stringer, Eric Comrie, to a claim by New Jersey. But when Comrie was re-claimed last month, Forsberg was once again put up for auction. And an Ottawa team that had already used four different starters due to injury came calling.

Forsberg is now 1-0-1 through his first two starts, with a 2.89 goals-against-average and .924 save-percentage.

“He was a really good pro here. We talked once about the fact that there really wasn’t much for us to talk about. We understood the situation he was in. He understood it. But there’s an example of a guy that didn’t allow a difficult situation to affect his ability to prepare for an unknown opportunity. So there’s a real good lesson there,” said Maurice.

“He worked harder. Wade Flaherty was very positive about him as a goaltender and said, ‘Yeah, this guy can play.’ But again, we’re not running normal practices and he never really had an opportunity to show that he could do it. But he deserves really the credit. He worked hard, he got himself prepared and we know that not as a subjective statement. Clearly he did, because he went into the net and has looked NHL-ready and right.”

STANLEY SHINES: Stanley got his first taste of penalty killing in the NHL last Friday night — and both he and his coach were happy with how it went. With Josh Morrissey in the box for tripping, Maurice gave the rookie some new responsibilities.

“Being on the PK is definitely something I’ve done through my career so far with the Moose and in junior. It’s a role I’m comfortable doing and enjoy doing it. It was nice to get out there a little bit and help the PK out,” said Stanley.

Maurice said there will likely be more of that in store going forward.

“Liked it a lot. He would have gone through some time here, just video wise, watching our penalty kill and then in games watching, there is some experience to that. It’s something he’s done in the past, we like the size of him. He’s shown now that he’s willing to block shots, he’s willing to do all those hard things. But he’s got such a good set of hands on him, that if it’s on his stick he’s got a good chance at a clear. And that’s a skill,” said Maurice.

“Not everybody can do that, can corral that puck and get it down 200 feet. It’s a big part of penalty killing. We see him as developing into that kind of player and you know he’s going to get the opportunity to do it whether it’s an injury or somebody in the penalty box. I think waiting a little while before you threw that on his plate lets him build some confidence going out there too.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

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