Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' injuries create opportunities

Depleted defence has coach Noel seeking stallions from St. John's

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- No truth to the rumour that the moment the Winnipeg Jets touched down on Long Island Wednesday they were immediately outfitted with bubble-wrap suits and confined to their quarters.

Might not be a bad idea, however.

The Jets headed north from Florida to New York to continue on their longest road trip of the season minus defenceman Tobias Enstrom and with veteran Mark Stuart now also on the mend.

Couple that with Derek Meech and Ron Hainsey still in the infirmary and the Jets' defensive corps is seriously depleted. To remedy the situation late Wednesday, the Jets recalled blue-liners Brett Festerling and Mark Flood from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps.

"The thing you can't do is make a lot of noise about it," said Noel Wednesday afternoon in New York. "It is what it is. It happens to everybody. You deal with it and you move forward.

"It's a situation where you hope your whole team rallies. That's what you have to do. The way the media is, you make a lot about it. That's the story to write about and I understand that. But we don't internally. I don't talk about it much, we just play forward."

Still, this latest news hurts, especially in Enstrom's case. He not only leads the Jets in minutes played, but is a valuable contributor to both the penalty-kill and power-play units. Enstrom, who was drilled by Jack Skille in Monday's win over the Florida Panthers, was sent home to Winnipeg to be evaluated by club doctors with what is being called an 'upper-body' injury. The extent of the damage should be further known on Thursday.

"He would certainly be one of our top defenceman and we hope everything goes OK with him," said Noel. "If he ends up being out then we're going to have to defend by committee. That's what we're looking to do now. There are some changes we're looking to do team wise. I thought last game we gave up way too many chances by their defence, too many point shots, too much time in our zone and it resulted in a couple of goals. So we have to change some things and readjust things."

Stuart, meanwhile, is fifth in the NHL with 33 blocked shots and has given the Jets both grit and leadership. He will be evaluated again today but is doubtful for the Isles contest.

"He's banged up a lot. Banged up is the way he plays," Noel said. "One of the problems you have is he always wants to play, so you have to manage things for him. You have to make the right decision for him and the organization. If you did what he wanted to do, he'd play all the time and you can't do that. You applaud that, but you have to make the right call for everyone involved, including the player."

Hainsey, meanwhile, is with the Jets but likely won't be available until Sunday's game against the New York Rangers or next week in Buffalo against the Sabres.

"The opportunity exists for somebody else," Noel said. "Good players are good players and you always miss them. But it's an opportunity for somebody to step in and play. You look forward and don't look back."

Noel has been in constant contact with IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge with Flood, Festerling or Zach Redmond considered the top candidates for recall. Power-play specialist Paul Postma may be tied for the IceCaps lead in scoring, but is apparently struggling in his own end.

"I speak to Keith almost every couple of days," said Noel earlier Wednesday. "He said he's got some stallions down there in the corral and if we need to get some things going he's ready to open the door and let them loose."

There was some positive news from sick bay: goaltender Chris Mason is recovering from a groin pull and should be good to go by the weekend. Ondrej Pavelec will start against the Isles with Peter Mannino in reserve.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2011 C3

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