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Jets recall Hutchinson as backup for Montoya

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Winnipeg Jets have called up goalie Michael Hutchinson from St. John's.

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Winnipeg Jets have called up goalie Michael Hutchinson from St. John's. Photo Store

So who is goaltender Michael Hutchinson?

With Ondrej Pavelec out at least two games with a lower body injury, the Winnipeg Jets announced Saturday that they have recalled Hutchinson from their AHL affiliate in St. John’s to backup Al Montoya, who is expected to start Sunday night at MTS Centre against the Dallas Stars and then again in St. Louis on Monday against the Blues.

Hutchinson was originally a third-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2008 and was acquired as a free agent by the Jets last summer. He’s a career minor-leaguer to this point, but has been turning heads this winter, first with his play in the East Coast Hockey League -- where he started the 2013-14 season -- and more recently in St. John’s.

Hutchinson was the ECHL goaltender of the week twice this winter and compiled some impressive statistics playing for the Ontario Reign -- a 22-4-2 record, 2.08 goals against average and 0.921 save percentage. And his numbers in St. John’s have also been impressive -- a 15-5-1 record, 2.33 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice said the club has been thrilled with Hutchinson’s progression this winter. "I think we’re really really happy with the plan they had in place, starting with the East Coast League and then getting him to the American League -- that as good as he was in the East Coast League, he’s been that good in the American League. They’re real pleased with where he’s at. I guess that’s what you expect from that development part -- that you can bring a guy in that you have confidence in."

*  *  *

It was suggested to Jets forward Blake Wheeler on Saturday that his teammates can look at the NHL standings and do the math on Winnipeg’s increasingly slim playoff chances just as easily as anyone else.

"I think you’re giving us a little too much respect -- I don’t know if we can do the math," Wheeler laughed.

And even if his teammates can add and subtract, Wheeler said the standings are immaterial to the task at hand -- ending a season-high six-game losing streak -- and his team is trying to focus elsewhere. "I think," said Wheeler, "we’re blocking that stuff out right now."

*  *  *

Jets backup goalie Al Montoya, who will start the next two games in place of injured Ondrej Pavelec, is better at handling the puck outside his crease than Pavelec is -- something Wheeler says gives the Jets an advantage when Montoya is playing.

"It helps -- that can be our forecheck breaker. You see it every once in awhile -- teams don’t have great dumps off him, he can move the puck up the ice and beat the forecheck... It’s definitely useful, especially against teams that forecheck well."

Montoya says he loves that part of his game. "That’s something that, for the most part, I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve always liked and it’s helped my game, whether it’s the puckhandling or the communication. Whatever I can do, it makes it easier on me and easier on the other guys as well."

email: paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

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