Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maurice juggles, Jets struggle

Scheifele's offensive zip sorely lacking

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Paul Maurice juggled lines, moved Michael Froik to centre and pushed, pulled and prodded his squad any number of ways to generate some offence.

But the Winnipeg Jets' first game without Mark Scheifele in the lineup -- he's gonzo for up to eight weeks with an MCL sprain -- also left most at the MTS Centre watching the Los Angeles Kings completely stifle the home side in a 3-1 win thinking one thing:

Get well soon, No. 55.

The Jets were outshot 41-18 by the Kings Thursday night in a blueprint road victory by the visitors. And while there were slight jumps in ice time by those who were asked to gobble up the extra minutes in Scheifele's absence, the offensive creativity the rookie had been providing was lacking.

"When you've got some injuries it's not easy," said Frolik. "It's a challenge for other guys to step up. We need that. You have to deal with injuries. It's hockey. It's a part of it. We need to adjust pretty quick on that.

"We need to put the puck more to the net... we had just 18 shots or something. We need to put to the net and have traffic. They've got some big guys there and they protect the net. But it's more we've got to get there. We need more shots from the point and battle in front of the net.

"Those kind of teams, you usually score ugly goals. It's usually not pretty."

Maurice moved Frolik into the middle between Devin Setoguchi and Matt Halischuk and that trio was solid. But while Blake Wheeler was reunited with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, that line combined for only two shots. And in the third period Maurice had moved Byfuglien onto that line, moving Wheeler alongside Olli Jokinen and Evander Kane.

Interestingly, of the 18 shots the Jets got to Jonathan Quick, seven were fired by Kane.

Of course, much of that unfolded because of the guys in the white jerseys.

Silver lining? Frolik was solid in his first game at centre since a short stint with Chicago last year.

"I liked Mike Frolik's game an awful lot," said Maurice. "If we dig into that, it was a solid performance by what our third line might be. I thought he (Frolik) was great. Our faceoff percentage is going to be a helluva lot better if he's going to keep going like that (he won 57 per cent of his draws) and we can play a solid enough game to win with him at centre ice."

If anything, the Jets were guilty of over-complicating the game with the pucks on their sticks. And against dominant defensive teams like the Kings -- a crew with some beasts at the centre-ice position like Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards -- simple can be much more effective.

"They play a tough game and we need to be sharper," said Frolik. "We struggled in the neutral zone. We didn't put the puck deep properly that we could have a good forecheck.

"We're all right. You're going to have some bumps in the road."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2014 C3

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