The Winnipeg Jets will be missing both goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and forward Chris Thorburn -- and maybe some others too -- as they head into a critical pair of games Sunday night at home against the Dallas Stars and Monday in St. Louis against the Blues.
Pavelec and Thorburn were both injured Friday night at MTS Centre in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers -- Thorburn hurt his foot when he was hit by a puck, while Pavelec sustained a lower-body injury during a goal mouth scramble late in the first period -- and Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Saturday that both men are lost for at least the next two games.
With Pavelec out of the lineup, Jets backup netminder Al Montoya will start the club’s next two games. The Jets also announced Saturday that they have recalled goaltender Michael Huthcinson from their AHL affiliate in St. John’s to backup Montoya.
Maurice said it’s still not clear how long Pavelec will be out of the Jets lineup beyond Monday. "I don’t expect him for the next two games," said Maurice, "but we’ll see when we get back from St. Louis."
And Maurice said the injury problems don’t end there for his club either, hinting cryptically that there are other possible lineup changes also in store for his team on Sunday.
"We have some concerns today that we need to see players come back tomorrow before they’re in the lineup. We’ve got some question marks," said Maurice.
The injury to Pavelec provides an opportunity to play, and at a critical time of the season, for Montoya, who has better numbers this season than Pavelec -- a 2.20 GAA and a .924 save percentage in 21 games, including 16 starts -- yet has remained the backup.
"I’m looking forward to the game. We’ve got a good team coming in here and we’re going to have to be ready," Montoya said Saturday.
"It’s just playing. I’ve been here for about a year-and-a-half and it’s been a good experience for me. I feel like I’ve given the team a chance to win most of the times I’ve been in the net and that’s my goal. I’m going to go in there and compete...
"Every time I step on the ice I’m trying to prove something, whether it’s to myself or to management or around the league. Every time you step on that ice, you’ve got a chance to showcase yourself and give your team a chance and it all takes care of itself."
Wheeler said Montaya has his teammates’ full confidence. "He stole some games for us. There were some games we had no business being in there, had no business winning and he held us in and we found ways to win those games," said Wheeler.
"I think he’s capable of doing that and I think it’s an opportunity for him to get a little more action on a night to night basis. And I think he’s been working for that and he’s earned that. It’s never easy when you lose guys -- Pavs has been great for us lately and we’re going to miss him. But it’s nice to have an option like Monty to step in and fill that void."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Montoya has been battle-tested this season and that should serve him well heading into Sunday night.
"He’s gotten into top buildings, top opponents," said Maurice, "but this is a real good challenge for him because we know the weight of this game and it’s at home and it’s good that he’s got some experience."