Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.
After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.
Already a subscriber?
Already a subscriber?
He’s a little lighter in the wallet. But Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey won’t miss any action for a violent takedown of Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie.
Morrissey had a phone hearing Thursday with the NHL department of player safety, but avoided a suspension in a decision released a few hours later. He was given a US$8,467.74 fine, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for what the league called “unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Morrissey was playing the body on Oshie, but ended up slamming him down awkwardly to the ice in the final moments of what turned out to be a 3-1 Jets victory on Wednesday night. The veteran Capitals forward appeared to be shaken up, although an update on his status wasn’t provided by the team Thursday.
Morrissey was not penalized on the play.
“Two guys going into the boards and they both went down,” is how Jets head coach Paul Maurice described the play following Thursday’s practice.
Morrissey’s blue-line partner, Jacob Trouba, believed it was an accident.
“I don’t think there was any malicious intent at that point of the game with a minute left. He’s not trying to do anything to hurt the team there,” Trouba said.
“I haven’t really watched it, but I’ve been in similar situations where you get tied up and you’re on skates, it’s tough. You get pulled a certain direction and it doesn’t take a lot to fall down, I guess. There’s a lot of different weights and movements going on out there, a lot of force going in different directions. It’s a tough play. Hopefully Oshie’s OK, I haven’t seen anything about that. But obviously Josh wasn’t trying to do anything there that was dangerous.”
Had he been suspended, Morrissey would have been considered a repeat offender. He was banished for one playoff game last spring after cross-checking Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal in the face.
In a separate incident, Winnipeg forward Brandon Tanev caught Evgeny Kuznetsov with a high hit and was given a two-minute minor penalty for illegal check to the head. Kuznetsov, Washington’s leading scorer, left the game in the first period and did not return. He is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Tanev will face no further discipline for the incident.
It was always going to be a risk this season — that Kristian Vesalainen would take his stick and go home to Europe if he wasn’t on the Jets roster.
And now that may be exactly what happens if a report out of Finland is true. According to journalist Pekka Jalonen, the 19-year-old is apparently planning to go play the rest of the year in the KHL with Jokerit, who obtained his league rights Thursday in a trade with SKA St. Petersburg.
Vesalainen, the 24th-overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, made the Jets out of training camp and posted one assist in five games before being assigned to the Manitoba Moose. Vesalainen has three goals and five assists in eight games with the AHL club, including a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s 5-4 win in Texas.
“I would have no idea,” Maurice said Thursday in response to a question about whether the report was accurate.
Vesalainen does have a clause in his entry-level contract that allows him to leave North America this season if not in the NHL. According to Jalonen, that should happen next week.
The Jets, and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, declined to comment Thursday. The Moose were travelling Thursday and continue their current road trip this weekend with stops in Grand Rapids and Chicago.
Winnipeg is carrying just 22 players, one under the 23-player maximum. The two healthy scratches Wednesday night were forward Brendan Lemieux and defenceman Sami Niku.
The power play is potent, of course, and leads the NHL. But the penalty kill has become pretty deadly as well for the Jets.
That was certainly on display in the win over Washington, as Winnipeg went three-for-three against the second-best power play in the NHL. The Jets are now at 82 per cent efficiency on the year, good for 10th in the league.
“We’re aggressive when the time’s right to be aggressive. Forwards have been working up top to get in shot lanes. I know in the past we’ve struggled with that point shot in the middle. I haven’t really found that to be the case this year, our forwards are in that lane. We’re getting some good saves, that’s a big part of the penalty killing is getting big saves,” Trouba said.
Winnipeg has had two rough outings this season where they gave up multiple goals while short-handed, but have been steady the rest of the way.
“There have been stretches where Connor (Hellebuyck) has made some big saves and he’s going to need to. You’re not keeping the puck from getting to the net on (the Capitals) power play. It’s no different than their PK on ours. We’ve liked chunks of it, we think we’re getting better at it. With Scheifele and Wheeler now being really effective and dangerous at times on the penalty kill, it’s like our entire game. We’re trending in the right direction,” Maurice said.
One other twist has been occasionally using Kyle Connor on the kill.
“On our penalty kill now, especially with our neutral zone, speed is of a great value to us and he is very, very quick. You saw it on the empty-net goal (Wednesday) and probably four other times, when the puck was in the area to the front of our net, he knocks it down and has quickness just to get it into two or three feet of open ice with that quickness and then the hands to make a good play,” Maurice said.
“All of those skills that he shows us at five-on-five translate very well to the penalty kill. When we have one of our six (penalty) killers in the box, he can go into there (the rotation) for sure. There may come a time when we’re trying to shave some minutes off of Scheifele and Wheeler that he can take a more prominent role there. But I see it as something that he’s going to grow into.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.