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ANAHEIM, Calif — The depth of the Winnipeg Jets blue-line corps continues to pay off.
Nathan Beaulieu won’t play tonight due to an undisclosed injury but Joe Morrow has been waiting in the wings and will return to the lineup against Anaheim as the Jets go Duck hunting at Honda Center.
Beaulieu might have been hurt when L.A. Kings forward Kyle Clifford got the better of him in a scrap Monday night in the first of three games on the road for the Jets. He had played 10 straight after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the NHL trade deadline Feb. 25.
Morrow, who was out for 14 games after suffering a lower-body injury Feb. 14 against the visiting Colorado Avalanche, will be paired with Jacob Trouba against the struggling Ducks.
He said life as a spectator during his recovery — the second time he’s been sidelined with an injury during his first full season in Winnipeg — was tough.
“There’s no good time to get injured and the timing of everything, when a couple of key guys go down and there’s opportunities to be had, it’s definitely frustrating,” said Morrow. “Now that things are on the upside, hopefully I can get a couple of games in here and get ready for the playoff push,” added Morrow, who has one goal and five assists in 39 games.
Dustin Byfuglien (lower body) and Josh Morrissey (upper body) are both shelved for the Jets (43-25-4), who lead the Central Division by a point over the Nashville Predators with two games in hand.
In their absence, head coach Paul Maurice has relied heavily on Beaulieu and youngster Sami Niku during the final push to the NHL’s post-season.
“It’s a huge testament to the people who draft the players here and the people who develop them. There’s not a bad hockey player in this organization and especially on the defensive end of things, there’s a lot of depth and a lot of opportunities to be had,” said Morrow.
“It’s pretty obvious that the way they teach things here is very effective. It’s just a willingness in players to know the details and to come in here and not miss a beat.”
The Jets will turn to Connor Hellebuyck to guard the net as they attempt to post a fourth consecutive victory. Jack Roslovic also draws in on the fourth line after sitting out in Los Angeles. Matt Hendricks joins the list of healthy scratches that includes forward Par Lindholm and blue-liner Bogdan Kiselevich.
Maurice said a healthy Morrow fits the Jets fluid style of play.
“He moves the puck smartly, skates well enough and can get back and get his stick on it early, and he’s sharp about how he moves (the puck) around and he’ll get it to the net as well from the blue line,” said the veteran bench boss.
The Ducks (30-35-9) are seventh in the eight-team Pacific Division and will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign.
The squad suffered through a 12-game losing streak from Dec. 18 to Jan. 17, a horrid stretch that cost head coach Randy Carlyle his job. He was replaced on a interim basis by general manager Bob Murray.
The Ducks, having won six of their last nine games, are a different club than the one that rolled over to the Jets 9-3 in early February, said forward Jakob Silfverberg, who leads the club with 22 goals.
“This is a team that’s been in the playoffs, been in the clear usually within about 10 games left. It’s the first time in my seven seasons not going to the post-season, so it’s been a tough year,” said Silfverberg. “We’ve said the last little stretch that it’s a lot more fun winning and playing the right way rather than just putting your skates on and going out there and playing.
“We’re still playing the right way and we’re still always in the game, and I think we’re playing with a completely different confidence level, we’re making plays and scoring some goals, so its been working a lot different.”
Winnipeg closes out the trip Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights.
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).