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?
GLENDALE — The stumbling Winnipeg Jets have one more chance to get back on track as they hit the regular-season finish line tonight.
The Jets enter the last day of play with plenty on the the line as they get ready to take on the Arizona Coyote, who are simply playing for pride after being eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week.
Winnipeg (46-30-5) could still finish first, second or third in the Central, could begin the playoffs either at home or on the road, and could face on of four different opponents in St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas or Colorado.
“It’s kind of an interesting finish. We’re going to do what we can control, come out and play hard and hopefully things fall into place,” said forward Kyle Connor following the morning skate in Scottsdale.
“We’re just building for the playoffs, getting our game right and not worrying about the final result, per say, but just playing the right way.”
Winnipeg will ice the same lineup tonight that fell 3-2 in overtime to Colorado Thursday, dropping them to 1-1-1 on this road trip and just 1-4-1 in the past six games overall. That means Connor Hellebuyck in goal, while Sami Niku, Matt Hendricks, Joe Morrow and Bogdan Kiselevich are the healthy scratches. Josh Morrissey, Brandon Tanev and Laurent Brossoit remain out with injuries.
Morrissey was on the ice this morning in a regular jersey and is expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs next Wednesday or Thursday.
“That usually means he wants to get in the lineup. Coach is going to hold him out, but he’s back on full-contact and will get some practices in,” said coach Paul Maurice. Morrissey has been out since Feb. 24 when he suffered a shoulder injury here in Glendale against the Coyotes.
Eric Comrie will be the back-up to Hellebuyck, although Brossoit is also believed to be close to a return. Tanev has flown back to Winnipeg after suffering a hand injury from a slash last Tuesday in Minnesota, and his status won’t be known until early next week.
The Jets will start the playoffs at Bell MTS Place as long as they win tonight, regardless of what St. Louis or Nashville do in their games. But a loss means they’ll need help on the out-of-town scoreboard to avoid falling to third in the division they’ve led for large parts of the season.
Maurice addressed an issue that occurred on the bench Thursday night, in which defenceman Dustin Byfuglien slammed his stick in anger on the boards, breaking it, after not getting out for a power play. Jacob Trouba, who’s been promoted to the top unit and remained there even after Byfuglien returned from injury four games ago, was on the ice for the entire two minutes.
“That’s a group thing. That wasn’t specific to our power play. That was specific to our second period especially when we had some nice long shifts by a whole bunch of guys. We were relaying our frustration back and forth,” said Maurice.
However, he hinted Byfuglien could soon be back on the top unit, perhaps as early as tonight.
“You’ll probably see both, right. We were running close to about 30 per cent there for about a month, so it’s there and we like it. We know it’s run close to 30 per cent with Dustin as well so, he’s just coming back and working his way in. It’s been a little the last few games, hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, so we have options with that,” said Maurice.
The Jets will face a Coyotes club that gave it a good run but fell just short, as they were eliminated Thursday night when Colorado rallied to tie Winnipeg and force overtime, ultimately winning. Calvin Pickard, the Winnipeg-raised goaltender, will start for the home team.
“These guys have had a hell of a year. And they’re proud of the way they played. It ended on the last game, but they’ve earned a right to have a good feeling. They’ve competed hard,” said Maurice.
“This is actually a real good tune-up game for us going into the playoffs. Sometimes you get into these games at the end of the year and the other team’s out and it’s not even real hockey. We’re going to be in a full-on hard game tonight, which will be great leading into next week.”
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.