Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Paul Stastny were all back at practice on Friday after getting an extra day off for maintenance on Thursday.
The Winnipeg Jets are preparing to host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday as the seven-game homestand continues at Bell MTS Place. The game is the first of nine meetings between the two clubs this season.
The Jets have won 10 consecutive games over Vancouver, but the Canucks are riding high on a three-game win streak after a slow start to the season.
“Early struggles, right? Kind of mould the team and kind of snap the focus into place,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said.
“I think that we’re all gonna go through it during the year. Theirs happened to be early. In a 56-game schedule the urgency to right your ship is far more intense I think.”
“A great team, top to bottom,” goalie Connor Hellebuyck said. “Really, we got to match the intensity.
“We’ve had a couple days off now, and I think looking forward, it’s going to be all our energy on how much the start we have.”
Hellebuyck is still trying to find the form that won him the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender last season. It’s not that he’s been bad, he’s just allowed a few weak goals over his past couple of starts.
Both his goals against average and his save percentage are slightly worse than last season, but Hellebuyck thinks it’s way too early in the campaign to be worried about stats.
“I like to just keep an eye on it,” he said. “And before last game, I think my save percentage was pretty good.
“Last game was a learning curve for me. You know, I had two good periods, and one period I’d like back, obviously.
Hellebuyck is hoping to have his A-game for the full 60 minutes on Saturday.
“I’ve had a really good feeling and then sometimes I pop off it, and I have to re-battle myself into it,” Hellebuyck said. “I can say right now – I’ve done my job. Numbers wise, yeah, I’d like to keep improving them. I think any goalie around the league would say that.”
Stastny is one player who’s quickly rounded into form after a tough start. The 34-year-old had no points in his first four games of the season, but he’s rebounded nicely with six points over his last three contests.
“When you’re older, sometimes, it always takes a couple games to kinda get into it,” Stastny said. “I think the last couple years the way this game has changed a little bit is there is so much kinda speed and skill.
“Especially early in the season you see a lot of new guys, and a lot of news faces, and a lot of guys kinda play a different style. You tend to cheat the game a little bit, and you tend to try to play the way they play. And that’s what’s never made be successful. And then I always kinda take a step back and realize that I need to kinda get under the puck, need to control a little bit, need to stop on the play instead of trying to cheat and try to get those odd man rushes like other guys do. And that comes with experience.”
The latest COVID protocol related absences list released by the NHL on Friday did not include Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman for the first time in two weeks. He’s been unavailable since their season opener.
The Jets latest acquisition Pierre-Luc Dubois is still in quarantine since his arrival in Winnipeg on Saturday. When players originally came for training camp earlier in January they had to isolate for seven-days, but the 14-day quarantine is back in place for players travelling from another country, and it doesn’t look like the Jets will get an exception.
“We have no new news on that front,” Maurice said. “So we will plan accordingly as the full 14-day.”
That would make him eligible to make his Jets’ debut on Feb. 9 against the Calgary Flames, but the head coach might want to get him a few extra practices first.
“That’s a long time to be off the ice,” he said. “So we’ll get him on the ice and make an assessment from there.”
The other key piece to last weekend’s blockbuster trade was Patrik Laine, and he arrived in Columbus on Friday according to the Blue Jackets’ official Twitter account.
It’s a late start for the Jets on Saturday with puck drop scheduled for 9:00 PM.
You can listen to the game live on 680 CJOB with Kelly Moore, Paul Edmonds, and Jamie Thomas.