RALEIGH, N.C. — No one is going to suggest the Winnipeg Jets now have more weapons than a Schwarzenegger movie. But they aren’t just a one-line hockey club any more, either.
In the past couple of years the Jets have relied heavily on the Bryan Little-Andrew Ladd-Blake Wheeler trio, with support from Evander Kane up front. And now? Consider this: the Jets lead the NHL with nine players with 10 or more goals — Blake Wheeler (22), Bryan Little (17), Evander Kane (15), Olli Jokinen (13), Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Michael Frolik (12), Mark Scheifele (11) and Devin Setoguchi (10).
The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning each had eight players in double-digit goals heading into action Monday, with Nashville, Ottawa, Philadelphia and Washington all at seven. "It makes running the bench a lot different for me, when you’re not trying to find a place for your first line to go out and play against and you’re looking for a break," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "When you’ve got three lines that can score and when you look at the stats sheet, each of our top three scorers are on a different line. Then go down, the next three and the next offenisve players are all on a different line."
‘I’ve always liked it in Winnipeg. I’ve met a lot of great people and always had confidence in this team and now, especially, because it’s an exciting time’ — Jets defenceman and soon unrestricted free agent Mark Stuart, on wanting to stay in Winnipeg
"You need to have four solid lines, but you especially need to have three lines that can be out there in any situation... defending the lead or when you need a goal," added Jokinen. "Let’s put it this way: every good team in this league has got three lines going and they have a good fourth line.
"We believe we have three good lines that can score and our fourth line is good, too, when they get a chance to play."
MORE STUART? Defenceman Mark Stuart has had his name mentioned lately as possible trade bait, especially because he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. But the Jets’ assistant captain also made it no secret he’d like to stay during an interview with TSN’s Hustler & Lawless on Monday.
Stuart, FYI, is earning $1.7 million this season.
"Of course I would," he said. "I’ve always liked it in Winnipeg. I’ve met a lot of great people and always had confidence in this team and now, especially, because it’s an exciting time. We are finally playing with consistency and getting over the hump, I think. It’s really something I want to be a part of because when you’re here from the start and you see that progression you want to be a part of it when things turn around and start getting better." AHH, THE MEMORIES: Jets’ coach Paul Maurice has a big-time connection with the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise dating back to 1995-96 that included two stints as head coach (1996-2004; 2008-12). And so a return to this area does have him reminiscing a bit.
"(His return) is not the same novelty as the first time through," said Maurice, who first returned as the Toronto Maple Leafs coach in 2006-07. "It’s more being on the bus driving around the streets. Every city you never know where you are and here you know exactly where you are. That’s where I get the memories and flashbacks... where your kids went to school, my daughter went to school across the street. Those are the things you have memories about.
"This is such a good franchise and it probably doesn’t get noted for that as much as it should. With the crowd, the noise level. You remember that when we first started, there was nothing. Every once in a while, you’d see a car with a little Hurricane flag and you weren’t sure if they were sold out of NC State flags.
"It’s almost a model franchise for the nontraditional market. You always had that sense there was a connection between the fans and the players. Moreso than other places, very much like Winnipeg. A smaller community and everybody knows what the team is doing."
KICHTON STILL SHINING: St. John’s IceCaps defenceman Brenden Kichton is the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for January. Kichton, a seventhround draft pick in 2013, had 14 points (3G, 11A) in 12 games during the month as St. John’s went 9-3-0. He currently ranks second among AHL defencemen and third among rookies in scoring with 37 points (9G, 28A) and will participate in the All-Star Classic in St. John’s Feb. 11-12.
NOTABLE: Thanks to Sunday’s 2-1 win over Montreal, the Jets are now 15-12-5 in one-goal games. Only New Jersey (35) and Calgary (33) have been involved in more one-goal affairs... Mark Scheifele leads all NHL rookies with 21 assists and has 12 points (5G, 7A) over the last 13 games.
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