Jets place call to minors for Albert

- December 1st, 2013

NEW YORK — With Evander Kane still feeling the effects of a lower-body injury he sustained late in the first period of Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, chances were pretty good the Winnipeg Jets were going to place a call to the minors.

Jets head coach Claude Noel didn’t dismiss the possibility when it was raised by a reporter following Sunday’s workout at the New York Rangers’ practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. and a couple hours later, centre John Albert had been recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.

Personally, I thought this might be the time the Jets summon centre Eric O’Dell, who leads the IceCaps in scoring with 22 points in 22 games and had a strong training camp with the big club. On Monday, Jets head coach Keith McCambridge raved about the way O’Dell has been playing.

However, the Jets opted to go with Albert instead. To be honest, I didn’t even ask McCambridge about Albert, since I wasn’t sure he was even on the radar for a call-up.

Why are the Jets giving Albert his first recall instead of O’Dell?

I’m not 100% sure because the move was made after the media availability period, but we’ll see what Noel says in the morning.

What I can tell you is that Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger saw the IceCaps play this week and he likes the way Albert competes.

I won’t know until after Monday’s skate if the Jets plan to insert Albert directly into the lineup or if he’s just been called up for insurance purposes.

Either way, Albert is an interesting study.

The 24-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio played four seasons for Ohio State University, putting up 33 goals and 124 points in 159 games but since turning pro he’s been used more as a checking-line player.

He was originally chosen in the sixth round (175th overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers but wasn’t signed to an entry-level contract until the Jets signed him this past summer — after spending two full seasons with the IceCaps on an AHL deal.

During his first season with the IceCaps, Albert turned some heads. In addition to playing on the checking line, Albert chipped in nine goals and 27 points in 64 games, adding five points in 15 playoff games as St. John’s reached the conference final. Albert was named Hardest Working Player at the IceCaps’ year-end awards at the end of his rookie season.

However, Albert was limited to only 24 games last season (three goals, five points) because of a mysterious back injury but is back to full health and may be on the verge of making his NHL debut.

The Jets’ fourth line hasn’t received a lot of ice time this season and hasn’t produced much offence to this point — Eric Tangradi has one goal and three points in 24 games, Anthony Peluso (who figures to draw in for Kane) has one goal in 10 games, James Wright has one assist in 28 games and Chris Thorburn has no points in 18 games.

Thorburn was skating on a line with Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi on Sunday, Blake Wheeler was back with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, Mark Scheifele remained between Michael Frolik and Matt Halischuk, while Peluso was with Wright and Tangradi.

I spoke with Peluso after he had a long chat with Noel and was talking like he was going to play against the Rangers.

So the only way I can see Albert getting in is if Noel wants to mix things up on the fourth line and insert him at centre, with either Wright or Tangradi on the left side.

Regardless, with the Jets not playing again until Thursday, don’t be surprised if Noel rolls three lines and then mixes in the fourth sporadically.

With Kane out, I’d expect the Jets to use Frolik more on the penalty kill but only time will tell.

The Jets’ defence figures to remain the same: Dustin Byfuglien with Toby Enstrom, Keaton Ellerby with Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba and Grant Clitsome, leaving Adam Pardy on the sidelines.

Ondrej Pavelec will be in goal and likely oppose Henrik Lundqvist, since Cam Talbot got the start on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks in John Tortorella’s return to Madison Square Garden.

Obviously, if you’re O’Dell, seeing another forward get to call could be tough to swallow but his options are simple: either feel sorry for yourself about being passed over or continue to work hard so that your the guy who is summoned the next time an opportunity arises.

To this point, the injury to Kane doesn’t appear to be overly serious but as you know, the Jets aren’t exactly forthcoming when it comes to revealing details about injuries, so I’ll continue to monitor the situation as best I can.

Check out additional coverage at www.winnipegsun.com and in Monday’s paper, where I wrote a column about the Jets coming to a fork in the road on this season-long six-game road trip.

The notebook talked about the Jets PP struggles, the chances of Peluso’s return and a few other items.

I’ll look more at the match-up with the Rangers on Monday after the morning skate.

 

Categories: Hockey

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