Ondrej Pavelec doesn’t concern himself with who might be standing in the crease at the other end of the ice.
But that didn’t prevent the Winnipeg Jets netminder from offering up some kind words for New Jersey Devils goalie Johan Hedberg, his former goaltending partner early in his career with the Atlanta Thrashers.
“I always play against the team, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side, but I had a great relationship with Moose (Hedberg) and he helped me a lot at the beginning of my career,” said Pavelec, who will make his eighth consecutive start and appear in his 18th game this season. “It’s nice to see him in New Jersey, he’s been playing well and I know how hard he works, how hard he battles every practice, how he prepares for games, it was unreal and it’s really helped me in my career.”
The Jets (9-9-1) and Devils (10-5-4) meet Thursday at MTS Centre.
When I relayed Pavelec’s kind words to Hedberg this morning, the former Manitoba Moose puckstopper had a chuckle.
“I don’t know about that,” said Hedberg, referring to Pavelec’s comment about teaching him a lot. “He’s a great guy. We had fun. He’s a hard-worker and he wants to play. Hopefully, we did something together that he can take with him. I appreciate him saying that.”
I also asked Hedberg what it was like to see Pavelec’s growth as a goalie?
“I know he’s got a lot of talent. He played well when I was with him in Atlanta and he’s continued that here in Winnipeg as a starter,” said Hedberg, who is 2-3-1 with a 2.65 GAA and .900 save % in six games this season. “I’m not surprised. He’s a big part of this team’s success.”
Following the scrum, I shared a laugh with Hedberg, remembering the day he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Manitoba Moose were traveling home from a road trip on the day of the NHL trade deadline and Hedberg and I were standing in line together, waiting to go through customs, wondering aloud about who might actually get traded that day.
Little did either of us know it would be Hedberg on the move and that the deal would ultimately launch his NHL career.
Part of the Jets’ successful 4-1 road trip was a 4-2 win over the Devils last Sunday — which was even more impressive given the fact they bounced back from a poor third period against the Philadelphia Flyers one day earlier.
The Jets followed that up with a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers, while the Devils haven’t played since.
Based on the morning skate, the Jets will dress the same lineup, which means the scratches will be Kyle Wellwood, Antti Miettinen and Derek Meech.
Here’s how we project both teams to start the game:
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, Nik Antropov, Alex Burmistrov,
James Wright, Olli Jokinen, Anthony Peluso
Eric Tangradi, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn
Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart, Paul Postma
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Montoya)
Adam Henrique, Andrei Lokitonov, Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Stephen Giona, Steve Bernier
Stefan Matteau, Tim Sestito, Bobby Butler
Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene, Adam Larsson
Henirk Tallinder, Mark Fayne
Johan Hedberg (Keith Kinkaid)