The Winnipeg Jets defence will look a little more familiar tonight as the NHL club plays its home-opener against the Minnesota Wild.
Josh Morrissey and Dmitry Kulikov return to the lineup as the Jets (2-2-0) collide with the Central Division-rival Wild. (0-2-0) at Bell MTS Place. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Wild dominated the Jets last season, winning all five contests.
Carl Dahlstrom and Sami Niku won’t play tonight, while centre David Gustafsson will also be a healthy scratch.
Morrissey was held out of the lineup for the final two games of a season-opening four-game road trip after getting hurt in a collision with a teammate during the warmup Sunday prior to a meeting with the New York Islanders. He also sat out Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh.
The jolt was enough to warrant concussion protocol, although Morrissey said he passed the tests and is primed and ready to go tonight.
“I was never diagnosed with a concussion. In today’s day and age in the NHL, especially with our team, they do a very good job of taking the right precautions. I wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion or anything like that, which is why I’m able to play here today. I didn’t have any of the typical symptoms,” he said.
“By all accounts going through the protocols that you have to, if there’s precaution being put into place everything was clear and great. But as frustrating as it is as a player to be held out of games, I think it’s something the league has taken big strides in.”
Morrissey, expected to be paired with Neal Pionk tonight, said in hindsight the overly cautious approach is appreciated.
“In the moment, it’s very frustrating as a player but at the same time you thank the people that are in those situations because it’s just not something you want to mess around with. I thought the team handled it really, really well,” he said.
Kulikov missed the game in Pittsburgh to be with his wife when she gave birth to a baby girl. He’ll be paired with Anthony Bitetto, while Ville Heinola and Tucker Poolman will play together.
Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 37 shots in Winnipeg’s 4-1 victory in Pittsburgh, gets a second-straight start. The Jets forward lines won’t change from the units that skated together against the Pens.
Patrik Laine is off to a solid start with a goal and five assists, benefiting greatly from his time on the left side with centre Mark Scheifele and right-winger Blake Wheeler. The 21-year-old Finn has been aggressive on pucks and his energy level has been high in all three zones.
Laine said he’s working harder than ever has before and playing with a clear head — no impending contract squabbles clouding his thoughts.
It’s the first time the burgeoning playmaker admitted he was bothered last season as a pending free agent.
“I still want to score. I would still want more goals than assists. But points are points. Right now, I think it’s a little bit more… I think last year I was just stressed about contracts and all of that kind of stuff. Now, I have it in my pocket so now I can just play hockey and not worry about that,” Laine said.
“With those two (Scheifele, Wheeler), you’re going to get the points when you work hard. Now, I’ve seen it in these first four games. When you work hard every shift with those type of guys, you’ll get points somehow.”
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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