Of neck braces, shootouts, healthy scratches and lost edges on Jets’ Saturday

- October 19th, 2013

It was a light workout for the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Iceplex on Saturday, but there was no shortage of news items to work through.

First and foremost, the news about rookie D Jacob Trouba was positive.

After hearing late Friday night the 19-year-old had been discharged from the hospital, I arrived at the rink this morning to hear that Trouba was going to actually address reporters about the ordeal he had gone through one night earlier, when he crashed head first into the end boards early in the second period in what turned out to be a 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues.

Trouba will be sporting a neck brace for at least the next two weeks before he goes back for a follow-up with team doctors, but his spirit was bursting through on Saturday, grinning from ear-to-ear as he spoke for close to five minutes, describing the scary scene of crashing into the boards and eventually leaving on a stretcher and later looking at what the next few weeks might be like (a lot of rest).

Trouba realizes he’s lucky the injury wasn’t worse. He’s not sure how long he’ll be out, that will depend on the healing itself, but it’s a safe bet he’ll need at least two weeks to build his strength back up after this initial two weeks goes by.

And you can be sure that regardless of how badly Trouba wants to get back into action, the Jets will err on the side of caution, as the most important thing is his long-term health.

The one question didn’t have an answer for was about how he’s going to block out the incident itself when he returns to the ice.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out the next time I play,” said Trouba. “I haven’t really gone through anything like this. Time will tell.”

Trouba has handled himself well both on and off the ice in the early stages of his rookie season and while he endured a scary moment, you’d have to think this is merely a bump in the road for the ninth overall pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

The Jets were down a few bodies at today’s workout. Bryan Little, Jim Slater, Michael Frolik and Dustin Byfuglien all were absent for maintenance purposes, while Mark Stuart is day-to-day with a hip injury (I thought it might have been his ribs that crashed into the post on Friday, but it was his hip).

One of the other storylines from Friday that was discussed was the benching of winger Devin Setoguchi, the off-season acquisition who had gone five games without a point before he was a healthy scratch for the first time since missing a meeting two years ago.

Setoguchi was very frank, saying it was on him to be better.

He wasn’t happy sitting out, but he took ownership, said all the right things, insisting he needed to work hard to get back into the lineup.

Jets head coach Claude Noel didn’t give any hints but I’ll be surprised if Setoguchi isn’t back in action Sunday against the Nashville Predators.

Setoguchi got the message loud and this is what he said when I asked him which part of his game needed to improve?

“I feel like I’m at my best when I’m getting in on the forecheck and winning battles for the puck,” said Setoguchi, who has two goals and three points in seven games.

I also asked Setoguchi if it was a matter of trying to feel comfortable in a new system, since he’s with his third organization in a short amount of time.

“Anytime you come to a new team, there’s obviously a challenge of trying to learn something new but that’s no excuse,” he said. “There’s still things I can learn. It’s a process of getting better and it’s just something I’ve got to do.”

Setoguchi said he watched the game from the dressing room because he didn’t want to run into any members of the media up in the press box area (I think he was only half-kidding, or not kidding at all).

Since his arrival, it’s been clear Setoguchi has a personality and I expect to bounce back from this early setback.

For those who think being scratched is an easy way to lose a player, I don’t see that happening with Setoguchi. He’s not a young guy and he has plenty of confidence in himself and his abilities.

It’s also a contract year for him, so he can’t afford to not do everything in his power to be a productive player.

In Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss, Jets D Grant Clitsome blew a tire in the corner, falling to the ice untouched, allowing Blues RW T.J. Oshie to take the puck and find David Backes for the game’s opening goal.

I asked him if it was simply a matter of losing an edge?

“I’m not making excuses, I just fell,” said Clitsome. “It’s brutal. That’s a pretty (lousy) feeling when you see (the puck) go into the net.”

Speaking of D-man, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom combined to produce the game-tying goal.

Byfuglien, who is playing some of his best hockey since joining the Jets, made a wicked pass across the seam to an open Enstrom.

Although Byfuglien made the play look routine, looking off a defender and rifling a pass onto the tape isn’t as easy as he made it look — especially against a strong checking team like the Blues.

“He can make those passes. There are some things that Dustin can do and he does them with regularity and at another level. Whether that’s passing, shooting, quickness or skating. He can do those things and that’s what makes him special when he plays that way. That’s a tough pass to make, but can execute those. He’s got a high skill level and we know that. We get to expect those things, especially when for me, he’s had eight good games,” said Noel.

Enstrom unloaded a big shot, something Noel would like to see more of.

“Toby was very good last night. He’s a guy that can create offence,” said Noel. “We’d like him to shoot more. Last night, he had five shots on net and we thought that was spectacular, because he’s more of a non-shoot guy. He has a good shot and we saw that last night. His contribution comes in different ways. He’s such a good skater and if he can continue to skate and make both his shot and pass a factor as a combination, you can see he can be at the top of our team, scoring -wise.”

Another subject that was getting its share of attention on social media was Noel’s decision to use enforcer Anthony Peluso during the shootout.

“A lot of people would say, why Peluso? But Peluso, over the two years he’s been here has been dominant in practice in shootouts,” Noel acknowledged. “I know it’s different in practice and in games, because he would like to have that one back. But forme, he was a guy who had done very well and had established (he can do it). I had no qualms about it. I can understand why people would say net, but that’s fine. He’s got a good shot, he’s an accurate shooter and he’s got a couple of really good moves. And we didn’t see any of them.”

Peluso was excited for his first game against the organization that drafted him and encouraged that Noel showed faith in him during the penalty-shot contest.

“It was a little bit nerve-racking. I’ve never had a shootout (attempt) in the NHL before. It sucks that it didn’t go where I wanted it to and obviously, I wanted to score but in the end the only thing that matters is that we got the two points,” said Peluso, who fanned on his shot attempt. “I was trying to get a pump (fake), get the goalie to freeze and put it where he wasn’t. Last time I had a shootout, I was in Peoria, during the (AHL) pre-season and I scored. I went with fake-shot and five-hole and it worked.”

Peluso played 7 minutes and 34 seconds on Friday and Noel seemed to like what he brought to the table, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay in the lineup.

“I thought he played physical and went to the net well. Thought he tried to play his style of game. I thought he played with weight and you noticed him. Sometimes it’s infectious when big people go to the net,” said Noel.

The Jets (4-4) are set for the fifth game of this six-game homestand and are catching the Predators (4-3-1) after they earned a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

Rookie D Seth Jones scored the game-winner on Saturday, jumping up from the left point and burying a quick shot past Carey Price late in the third period, showcasing his patience and talent while playing nearly 28 minutes (27 minutes and 29 seconds) on a pairing with perennial Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber, who had the other goal for the Preds.

Talk to you on Sunday after the morning skate.

 

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