RALEIGH, N.C. — Have to say it was one of the most bizarre morning skates I’ve seen at any point in my close to 13 years covering hockey for the Winnipeg Sun
The morning was rolling right along, players were in positive spirits and all eyes were on a Southeast Division battle, when things took a sharp turn.
Many players were already off the ice and reporters were conducting interviews inside the Jets’ dressing room, when assistant coach Pascal Vincent came running in. You could tell by the tone of his voice that something serious had happened on the ice.
There was plenty of commotion and players and media members alike made their way back out to try to get a look at what was happening.
Although I didn’t witness the incident first-hand, what I saw was a group of concerned players, coaches and medical personnel crowded around Jets D-man Zach Redmond.
The pool of blood left on the ice was enough to make the stomach of most witnesses queasy.
What we learned afterward from Jets head coach Claude Noel was that Redmond fell during a 1-on-1 drill, ended up on the ice and a teammate accidentally cut him in the middle of his thigh, causing a deep cut.
Redmond was taken to hospital by ambulance and underwent nearly three hours of surgery to repair the laceration to his right femoral artery and vein. The Jets statement said Redmond was resting comfortably but would be out indefinitely.
As for the match-up, tonight is the first meeting between the two Southeast Division rivals and Jets D-man Zach Bogosian said it’s important to try and set the tone and follow up a strong effort in their 2-1 win over the Sabres on Tuesday night.
“We want to be known as a tough team to play against, whether we’re playing at home or on the road. We want to make sure we’re coming out, working hard and setting that tone,” said Bogosian. “We just have to keep our energy up. Especially on the PK, we were hunting down pucks together as four-man unit. Just go out there and get the job done.”
The Hurricanes (8-5-1) currently lead the Southeast with 17 points and the Jets (6-8-1) are only four points behind. Obviously, finding a way to win would be a huge boost for them.
“It’s never really easy, every road win has been difficult for us,” said Noel. “They’re at the top of our division so this is a big four-point game for us.”
Jets captain Andrew Ladd will play his 500th NHL game tonight against the team that drafted him and the squad he won his first of two Stanley Cups with. Ladd was also chosen fourth overall in 2004 at PNC Arena.
We looked at Ladd’s story in Thursday’s Sun. If you didn’t see it, here’s the link: http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/02/20/winnipeg-jets-captain-andrew-ladd-set-to-play-500th-nhl-game-in-city-where-career-started
It will be Ondrej Pavelec making his 13th start for the Jets, while Cam Ward is between the pipes for the Hurricanes.
Both men have not been up to their own standards, but Pavelec is coming off a strong performance against the Sabres.
Also had a nice chat with Eric and Jordan Staal following the Hurricanes’ morning skate and I’ll be writing a piece on their thoughts on becoming teammates in Friday’s paper and online at www.winnipegsun.com.
Here’s what Bogosian said when I asked him about facing the Staal’s.
“I’ve never played against them together, but they’re both big guys that are good at protecting the puck,” said Bogosian. “You have to play the body on them. They have good hands, so you have to make sure that you’re not watching the puck (against) them.”
The Hurricanes are battling injuries to key players like Jeff Skinner (concussion), D-men Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason, among others, so Ryan Murphy has been recalled on an emergency basis and will play his first NHL game against the Jets tonight.
“You’ve just got to enjoy. Regardless of what happens, you’ve got to go out there and play your game, don’t think too much and have fun with it,” said Eric Staal, when asked if he had any advice for Murphy.
The Jets didn’t do any line rushes, but their line combos and D-pairings remain the same
Puck drop set for just after 6 p.m. CT.
However, here’s how we project both teams to start:
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Nik Antropov
Eric Tangradi, Olli Jokinen, Kyle Wellwood
James Wright, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn
Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart, Zach Redmond
Ondrej Pavelec (Eddie Pasquale)
Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal, Alexander Semin
Drayson Bowman, Jordan Staal, Patrick Dwyer
Andreas Nodl, Jussi Jokinen, Tim Wallace
Chad LaRose, Riley Nash, Kevin Westgarth
Jay Harrison, Ryan Murphy
Joe Corvo, Justin Faulk
Michal Jordan, Bobby Sanguinetti
Cam Ward (Dan Ellis)