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Rookie right-winger Kristian Vesalainen seemed happy to be back on practice ice with the Winnipeg Jets Sunday morning, but he wasn’t keen to talk about a report he was originally planning to head home to his native Finland.
On Thursday, a Finnish media report said the 19-year-old would be triggering a clause in his contract to be able to suit up for Jokerit of the KHL if he was not playing in the NHL.
The Jets assigned Vesalainen to the American Hockey League on Oct. 18. He had one assist in five NHL games before being demoted and since then, has eight points, including three goals, in eight games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Following Sunday’s workout at Bell MTS Place, Vesalainen was asked if he had come close to returning to Finland.
“I don’t know,” Vesalainen said.
Was the report accurate?
“I don’t know,” he replied.
The Jets, who play in Vancouver against the Canucks tonight, recalled him to the big club Friday night.
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice was circumspect, deflecting with an indirect answer when asked to comment on Vesalainen’s situation. He now has two extra forwards on his roster — Vesalainen and Brendan Lemieux.
“We’re going on the road for four (games) in six (days) for probably pretty heavy games, so he’s an option for us as a player,” Maurice said.
Do the Jets plan to play Vesalainen on the four-game road trip?
“I don’t have any expectation either way,” Maurice said. “I don’t have a game pencilled for him or for Brendan (Lemeiux), and they may both be playing in Calgary. But going into Van, we’ll start our plan here, unless someone catches the flu.”
Whatever the case, Vesalainen’s situation seems settled, for now.
“I have to be good in every practice and if I get a chance to play, show that, too,” Vesalainen said.
DEADLY DUO: The Jets couldn’t have hoped for much better when they added goaltender Laurent Brossoit to the mix as Connor Hellebuyck’s backup.
Brossoit has played four games, but his numbers are excellent (3-0-1, 1.47 goals against, .959 save percentage) and the chemistry between the two has been equally good.
“He’s a great guy and we work on the same things,” Hellebuyck said. “Off the ice, we get along very well and we’re both on the same page with a lot of things, so it’s good to have that push and pull.”
Hellebuyck also appears to be returning to his all-star form of 2018-19.
“I’m liking my game — I’m feeling good,” Hellebuyck said. “The guys in front of me are playing great and making it easy on me and that being said, there’s still a lot of work to do and lot of details to keep focusing on. I continue on to get better.”
ON A ROLL: Sophomore winger Kyle Connor extended his point streak to four games with Winnipeg’s lone goal Friday. He has three goals and five points over that span… centre Adam Lowry went 34-for-56 (60.7 per cent) on faceoffs during the Jets’ homestand, pushing his season mark to 58.5 per cent.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.