WINNIPEG – What a difference a year can make.
The Winnipeg Jets have taken off to a sizzling 4-1 start to the season – a mere twelve months after starting the 2014-2015 campaign with a 1-4 record.
“We’ve come a long way,” said forward Blake Wheeler. “It was a grind just getting to where we are now. Not just in terms of our record but in terms of our preparation and knowing what we’re going to look like every night on the ice. That’s been the biggest challenge. We had to fight last year to get to that point of having that trust in one another. I think that’s why we’re having success now.”
The Jets will try to land a third straight win Sunday afternoon when they continue a six-game home-stand by hosting the St. Louis Blues (4-1). The matinee match will mark Winnipeg’s first this season against a Central Division rival.
“We know they’re going to be a good team,” said forward Mark Scheifele. “We know they’ve got a lot of skill, play a good defensive game. They’re going to be a tough test for us. I think we have to stay with our game and continue to learn as a team.”
A big reason for Winnipeg’s early success as been an outpouring of offence. The Jets lead the league in goal scoring with 18 buried in their first five games. But head coach Paul Maurice isn’t taking stock of the stat.
“I think our goal production, like everybody’s, is going to slide a bit as you get back on our side,” said Maurice. “The Western Conference and the Central Division is just going to be tighter. I’m really resisting the urge to draw any conclusions of who we are after five games.”
Wheeler will be in Winnipeg’s lineup on Sunday afternoon despite a freak accident in Friday’s home opening win against the Calgary Flames. His wrist was sliced open by Flames forward Sam Bennett’s skate during the third period. Wheeler needed a few stitches to close the cut.
“I went down like I have a tendency to do once in a while,” said Wheeler. “He just started skating in front of me. His heel kicked up and caught me as I was going down. It was a lot scarier than I think it was serious. Just fortunate it wasn’t a little bit to the left or right.”
Maurice wouldn’t offer up any hints on who he plans to go with in goal against the Blues.
“We’re going to put one in,” said Maurice as he cracked a smile. “We’re going to leave him in there for as long as we can.”
Puck drop is 2pm.