Jets back from break, face Wild

- December 27th, 2013

It sounds like the Winnipeg Jets used their mandated three-day break to clear their heads after Monday’s 6-2 thumping at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

Players were mostly upbeat as they talked about turning the page and getting ready to face the Minnesota Wild on Friday night at MTS Centre.

Tonight marks the 40th game of the season and since most projections for playoff qualification are in the 90s, it’s clear the Jets have to pick things up from the 16-18-5 record and 37 points they currently have in the bank.

“You don’t have to count the points or count the wins to know that we’re in desperation mode here. We have been for a while but even more so now,” said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart. “We need to win and it’s pretty obvious. We need to play desperate and to play like we can’t lose. It needs to start tonight.”

The quest for consistency has been a recurring theme for this Jets’ group since making their way here from Atlanta.

As annoying as the storyline might be for the players to answer similar questions on an almost-daily basis about that quest, they realize how to stop the badgering.

“If we didn’t want to answer these questions every day, we’d just win every game and we’d be all set,” said Stuart. “We’ve put ourselves in this position and it’s part of the game and part of the NHL. If you don’t perform and play well enough, it’s going to be mentally taxing. First of all, because you don’t like to lose and second of all, because you have to answer a lot of the same questions.

“The best way to get yourself out of that is to win and that’s what we’re concentrating on right now.”

For the Jets, Ondrej Pavelec is in goal, Keaton Ellerby draws in on D for Zach Bogosian, who is out with the flu.

Bogosian had a serious bout of the flu a few weeks back while he was dealing with a groin injury and it’s come back again, though Jets head coach Claude Noel was hoping it would be a short-term setback. Noel also revealed that D Grant Clitsome is dealing with a back problem, that’s why he was placed on injured reserve.

UPDATED:

Bogosian’s illness explains the recall of D Julian Melchiori, who will make his NHL debut after Stuart was a late scratch.

Forward Eric O’Dell is a healthy scratch, as Eric Tangradi draws back in on the fourth unit with Anthony Peluso and James Wright, who moves back to the middle.

Ellerby has a goal and three points in 18 games with the Jets this season, but has been a healthy scratch the past six games.

“No one ever wants to sit out that long,” he said. “But getting those days away from the rink and away from the game helps you clear your mind, reset your body. I had my family out here, which was awesome.”

I asked Ellerby what the Jets’ coaching staff relayed to him in terms of why he was the odd-man out the past while.

“I don’t really want to dive into that too much,” said Ellerby. “The last two games, against Colorado and St. Louis, they weren’t my best games, so I came out, which is understandable. (Adam Pardy) went in and played great. When a guys goes in and plays well, you don’t want to mess with that.

“But I think it was good. You see the game from a different perspective (as a healthy scratch) and try to learn and be a student of the game when you’re not playing.”

Ellerby has plenty of experience in coming back to the lineup after long stretches and isn’t nervous about getting in.

“You’ve just got to go out, keep it simple and not try to do too much,” said Ellerby. “Like I said when I first got here, when I had missed 12 games (with the Los Angeles Kings), you come in and play a simple, defensive game.”

I asked Noel what led to Ellerby’s benching and what he’s looking for in his return?

“We’re not looking for anything that he hasn’t shown us before,” said Noel, who seemed to forget about the first part of the question. “He’s a good skater and he can make plays. He hasn’t been in the games (recently) but he’s been chomping at the bit. He just needs to bring some of that enthusiasm into the game. I don’t look for anything more than he’s shown us already.

“He played pretty well when he got here.”

Noel has shifted his D pairings around again, so Ellerby will play with Dustin Byfuglien, Pardy moves beside Toby Enstrom and Jacob Trouba remains with Stuart.

Ellerby had some experience in Los Angeles playing with Drew Doughty, so he knows what it’s like to be partnered with someone who likes to join the rush.

“Buff is a guy that is even more active. (Doughty) creates stuff on his own from the blue line. Buff is a monster, so he can get in front of the net and create offence from there,” said Ellerby. “They both love jumping up in the play and being part of the offence. I’ve just got to play a hard defensive game and we’ll be alright. I think it’s going to be a pretty easy transition.”

Speaking of defence, based on the units used during the morning skate, it looks like forward Devin Setoguchi will be used on the point on the Jets’ 2nd power play unit.

Setoguchi, who has gone 10 games without scoring, would love to end the drought against his former team and the Jets could use some production from their Bottom-6.

This is the fourth meeting with the Wild and the Jets have managed one measly point (0-2-1), despite playing in three one-goal games with their Central Division opponent.

The Wild (20-14-5) have cooled considerably of late and are struggling to put the puck in the net.

They’ll be without top-line LW Zach Parise, who has a foot problem, and goalie Josh Harding, who rejoined the Wild on Friday but still isn’t ready to return to action after taking some time to alter his medication in his battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

Parise isn’t on the road trip and Harding wasn’t made available to reporters on Friday after the morning skate.

Veteran Niklas Backstrom gets the call in goal for the Wild and he’s 1-0 this season vs the Jets, winning the game in the shootout after being activated from IR on Nov. 23 and being thrust into action after Harding suffered a lower-body injury during the pre-game warm-up.

Here’s how I expect both teams to start on Friday:

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik
Chris Thorburn-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi-James Wright-Anthony Peluso

Toby Enstrom-Adam Pardy
Keaton Ellerby-Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec (Al Monotya)

WILD

Nino Neiderreiter-Miko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Dany Heatley-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine
Stephane Veilleux-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Keith Ballard-Nate Prosser
Jared Spurgeon-Marco Scandella

Niklas Backstrom (Johan Gustavsson)

Categories: Hockey

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1 comment

  1. vadeux says:

    i have been pretty critical of the team of late, so in this post i will say what i do like about the organization.
    what they have done in their drafting and rearing of the prospects appears to be a notation in the win column.
    i couldn’t be any more pleased with the development of schief and jacob.
    having two lads on the wjc team is fantastic.
    hard to be patient with the middling numbers for the team, but this direction may be the best one at this time.

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