Laine out, DeMelo in against Sens

Patrik Laine will miss a fourth straight game when the Winnipeg Jets welcome the Ottawa Senators to town to wrap up a three-game mini-series at Bell MTS Place on Saturday.

Laine is suffering from an undisclosed upper-body injury that occurred during or after the Jets’ 4-3 season-opening overtime win against the Calgary Flames on Jan. 14. Laine was the star of the show, chipping in two goals — including the OT winner — and adding an assist.

“I mean if he came in (Saturday) and he got on the morning skate and he was ripping pucks and he was feeling good, he’d be in the lineup that night,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said on Friday. “But we had more tests done today. There was nothing that we didn’t think, nothing new came up with that, so he’s still day-to-day.”

With Laine already out of the lineup for a full week, the Jets chose to place the 22-year-old on injured reserve. That doesn’t mean he can’t be pulled from it immediately; it’s only to help with the salary cap, something the Jets are up against and will be for most of the season.

The Jets also placed forward Nate Thompson on the IR, with his injury being classified as lower-body. Thompson was injured midway through Thursday’s game and did not return.

With Thompson out, Maurice said Kristian Vesalainen, who was recalled from the taxi squad Thursday, draws into the lineup. He’ll play on a line with Jansen Harkins at centre and Trevor Lewis on the wing.

DEMELO IN, BUT WHO’S OUT?

Some good news for the Jets included defenceman Dylan DeMelo returning to the lineup for the first time this season. DeMelo has missed all four games to support his partner and the birth of their new child. Tucker Poolman, who didn’t attend the Jets recent three-game road trip, remains a COVID Protocol Related Absence and won’t be available against the Senators.

With DeMelo back, that means the Jets will likely have to remove one of either Logan Stanley or Ville Heinola. Both rookie players have impressed in limited play, making what seemed like an easy decision just a few days ago a much harder choice.

“Sometimes you’ll take a guy out of the lineup and it’s actually good sometimes. You can take a player out who’s performed well and it’s about pairings and matchups and all those other things that goes into it, it’s not just about the individual player,” Maurice said. “So Dylan will draw back into the lineup and we’ll make that decision (of who comes out) Saturday.”

JETS HAPPY WITH STANLEY’S GROWTH

After his first full week of playing in the best league in the world, a stretch that included his three first NHL games, Stanley is feeling good about his development.

“It’s been a fun week, lots of different emotions,” he said. “Getting that first game in Toronto and then, two big wins in Ottawa. Overall, it was a pretty good week and a good road trip.”

Stanley grew up in Kitchener, Ont., about an hour’s drive from where the Maple Leafs play. He said it was a surreal experience playing at Air Canada Centre, even if family and friends were unable to attend owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Definitely a lot of nice messages from friends and family and coaches from the past, so that was nice. It was pretty cool to be able to call my family and let them know I was going to be playing,” Stanley said. “They’ve sacrificed a lot to help me get here. I couldn’t do it without them. I was very grateful to be able to call them and tell them and see the smile on their faces.”

Some have referred to Stanley as a late-bloomer. Though he’s only 22 years old, the Jets did select him in the first round, 18th overall, in 2016.

Maurice doesn’t see it that way. In fact, Maurice said the 6-7 blue-liner is maturing the way the team expected him to, spending time in the American Hockey League before making the jump to the NHL.

“So there are players that you draft that you know are going to take longer to develop into players. It’s just growing into, especially sometimes the bigger man, growing into his body, the strength and the endurance that you have to accumulate just over time. It’s not a matter of just having a couple of good summers and working hard, it takes some time,” Maurice said. “And then what happened is, is he got kind of put on a scale relative to some of the other kids that we drafted very high. So, we’ve been on an incredible run of our first-round picks playing early in their career. We made the decision after the Anaheim series (in 2015) that we were going to get really young, so our first-round picks got an easy in, in some ways, and they came in and they produced and developed well.

“So, there really wasn’t a point with Logan Stanley that we were overly concerned about how long it was going to take. I do think there’s a possibility that the pause benefited him because he got a phenomenal stretch of training. He came back to camp a man. He gets out on the ice, we go hard and heavy for an hour and a half, he can do it and then when we skate him at the end, he’s still powerful. So, that’s light years from where he was. So all the things that he’s capable of doing — closing the gaps, using the stick, moving the puck — now he can do those things.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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