After convincing victories over the Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames, the Winnipeg Jets will look to extend their streak against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon.
Posting back-to-back wins is a start but the Jets, at 21-23-25, still have a monumental task ahead of them to get themselves back in the playoff discussion.
“Obviously, the last week has been tough but we’ve really buckled down as a team and really stuck together,” said Jets rookie centre Mark Scheifele. “That’s what has helped us.”
Oilers F Nail Yakupov has been placed on injured reserve, so he won’t suit up this afternoon.
That means there won’t be any possible retribution for the forearm shiver he delivered to the chin of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec on Dec. 23.
However, I think the intensity level will still be high.
One of the reasons for that is that Jets head coach Paul Maurice and Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins coached together, first with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Here’s what Maurice remembers about Eakins, first in their playing days and later before the first interview for the Marlies assistant coach job.
“We played our Junior hockey together, against each other, different conferences, but he was on the list of guys that “could and would” before he went in to a game that would like to get involved and then you just saw his name a lot of places. I’m looking for an assistant coach for the Toronto Marlies and I get three calls from people that I know pretty good that just said ‘you really got to meet this guy’ and then John Fergusson (Jr,) came to me with the same thing. He said, ‘listen, I’ve gotten some unusually high-end phone calls about this man, that you should interview him.’”
“So we met in Toronto…five minutes in to it I knew he was the guy. Very, very bright. Very detailed. Hardest thing sometimes is when you get players that become coaches. Some of them are really good at understanding that a coaches life is not a players life. We’re up early, we’re home late and it doesn’t end. Probably because the way he played his career, he works. He’s got a presence and [for those] who’ve spent time with him knows he can hold a room when he stands in front of it which is a key piece in being able to grab guys and motivize. He’s also very convicted in what he believes. He is strong in his beliefs and he will hold them to that which I think is why you’re going to end up loving this guy.”
This summer, when Oilers were looking for associate coach, did he call you?
“My relationship was revolved around Ralph Krueger. When I met with the Edmonton Oilers as it related to that…I know Ralph. Ralph worked for the Carolina Hurricanes, I had his son on my team. Then coming back from Europe had an affinity to learn more about where I just was and Ralph had a great background in that so that’s where that was. It just never got that far down the line. The fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t have taken it because he wouldn’t need me here. Had it been a real old veteran team, I’ve got a little more experience with that…He’s got a strong voice with a young team and that’s exactly what you want in my opinion and you don’t need two. I was an assistant coach for two months and the guy that I was working with got fired so I couldn’t have been any good. Paul Holmgren…he scared me.”
Here’s what Eakins had to say about Maurice on Friday:
“He’s a dear friend and a guy I’ve relied on, not only when I first started coaching, but as I’ve gone through the coaching ranks and this year as well. There’s been a lot of fires here. I’ve kept in contact with him and he’s given me some good ideas, reminded me of certain things. Just a dear, dear friend and a guy I’m extremely happy for and proud that he’s back in the game.”
When He was an assistant with the Marlies and Paul was the head coach.
“I had another offer to go somewhere else on a three year contract for way more money. I took the one-year deal with Tronto because I thought it was extremely important to learn the trade from an NHL head coach. A lot of people in the hockey world that year kind of shook their head at me, why would you give up term, why would you give up money. I just thought it was important to learn first. And, boy, has he given me lots of ideas, lots of teachings and I’m extremely grateful.”
was there discussion about Maurice joining Oilers as assistant/associate coach with Eakins?
“We talked about it a little bit before i had been even offered any of the jobs. I knew it didn’t make sense – Paul Maurice is a head coach. I think he would have great trouble being an assistant or an associate. He’s been smart with his career. He found some growth last year, taking on an extremely rough role, heading over to Russia and being away from his family. Then to come back and dig his heels in and wait for a job, sometimes that’s tough to do.”
“I feel bad for Clause Noel. I know Claude and he’s a good man and a good coach, but one of my happier days here in the last few months was when i saw Paul got the job.”
still talk hockey even though they are now rival coaches?
“He and I will share ideas. I’m not going to tell him what we’re trying on the power play tomorrow,. But even right up to minutes before our games last night. I saw that they were in Calgary and I knew we would get in earlier so I offered to take the earlier ice time.”
what does it mean to have somebody to talk to who understands what it’s like to be a head coach in the NHL?
“It’s important. There are other guys to that I get a hold of from time to time. But Paul has coached a lot of games. It’s amazing how old he was when he started coaching, 28.. that’s mind-boggling to me. He’s seen a lot. he’s certainly a guy who has helped keep me focused through the process here.”
For the Jets, it appears they’re going to go with the same lineup, with Ondrej Pavelec making his third consecutive start for the Jets.
For the Oilers, Winnipeg’s favourite opposition netminder Ilya Bryzgalov gets the call in goal.
Bryzgalov is 3-7-2 with one shutout, a 3.02 save percentage and .902 save percentage in 14 games (13 starts). He was in goal for the Oilers 6-2 win at Rexall Place on Dec. 23.
Here’s how I expect both teams to start Saturday:
Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Michael Frolik
Chris Thorburn-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
Devein Setoguchi-Olli Jokinen-Dustin Byfuglien
James Wright-Eric O’Dell-Anthony Peluso
Toby Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy-Keaton Ellerby
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Montoya)
Taylor Hall-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Jones-Sam Gagner-David Perron
Ryan Smyth-Boyd Gordon-Matt Hendricks
Luke Gazdic-Mark Arcobello-Jesse Joensuu
Andrew Ference-Justin Schultz
Nick Schultz-Anton Belov
Martin Marincin-Jeff Petry
Ilya Bryzgalov (Ben Scrivens)