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Wright's value exceeds mere numbers

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THE numbers next to James Wright's name in Thursday night's game program were humble, to say the least -- zero goals, one assist and four penalty minutes.

And yet come game time Thursday night, there was the Winnipeg Jets forward once again in the only place he's been all season long -- on the Jets bench as one of just eight players to have played in all 33 of Winnipeg's regular-season games this season.

The company Wright is keeping in that category, despite his humble offensive numbers, speaks volumes about just how important Wright is to his club in ways other than pucks in the net. Indeed, the list of the seven other players to have played in all of Winnipeg's games this season reads like a who's who of the team -- Jokinen, Ladd, Little, Wheeler, Byfuglien, Enstrom and Scheifele.

So how does a fourth-line guy with one assist all season long keep that kind of company night after night, Jets head coach Claude Noel was asked Thursday.

"I don't think James Wright's game is going to be about statistics," replied Noel. "He's a dependable, trustworthy player. He's a good penalty killer, he's got good speed, he's good on the forecheck, he manages the puck pretty well..."

Noel said Wright's ability to also fill in at centre for injured Jim Slater has also kept him in the Jets lineup. "He's just a reliable guy," said Noel. "That line has been pretty good for us."

Wright said he's just doing what he can to contribute.

"I'm trying to make sure I'm accountable in my own end and I'm trying to make sure I'm on the plus-side on the scoresheet," said Wright. "As a forward, you want to help your team anyway you can. If I'm not putting the puck in the net, I've got to be doing other things to help the team, whether that's killing penalties or gaining the puck in our own end or forecheck and create some momentum like that."

Still, he would like to score a goal.

"It's hard seeing that goose-egg on the scoresheet," said Wright, "and I'm trying to get that out of there."

-- -- --

Boston Bruins beat guy Joe Haggerty posted this on his blog Thursday afternoon on the website of Comcast Sportsnet.

We will re-post it here without comment. Discuss amongst yourselves:

"Something is definitely not quite right up in Winnipeg where power forward Evander Kane continues to show signs he's unhappy with his station in NHL life. The Winnipeg power forward is essentially breaking rocks in hockey jail for the Winnipeg Jets with no chance for playoff appearances, and far out of the league spotlight toiling for a team in the Canadian hinterland.

"Kane hasn't played since Nov. 29 with a lower body injury, and was off to a seven-goal, 14-point start for the Jets in 26 games this season. More eye-opening has been his behavior off the ice: clashing with Winnipeg coach Claude Noel about the reasons behind being scratched on Nov. 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks, giving short, surly answers to the Winnipeg media and now missing the first half of December with an undisclosed injury.

"It certainly doesn't seem like model behavior from a player that refers to himself as #thenatural on Twitter. But it might also be actions Kane hopes will eventually get him moved to a more desirable NHL destination as the Jets seem understandably reluctant to trade a young 30-goal scorer that's locked up for $5.25 million per season for four more years beyond this one.

Expect the Bruins to be a team that would be interested in Kane's service if/when the Jets finally get tired of his act. His combination of size, strength toughness and offensive skill is exactly the kind of player Boston is always looking for on the wing, and the Bruins have the right combination of young assets/valued NHL chips to make a deal happen.

"Would anybody take big issue with the Bruins dealing Brad Marchand, Jordan Caron, Malcolm Subban and a high draft pick in exchange for the unhappy Kane if push comes to shove in Winnipeg?"

-- -- --

Thursday night's visit to MTS Centre marked the first time Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy has returned to Winnipeg since he was a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.

Roy said Thursday afternoon he has fond memories of his trips here as a player in the 1980s and 1990s.

"I always enjoyed coming to Winnipeg. There were a lot of good fans in Winnipeg for the Montreal Canadiens. I almost felt we were at home some nights," Roy said with a laugh.

"That won't be the case tonight, I guess -- but that's OK. It's a great city and I'm happy to see a team here. They seem to support their team really well, which is great for the game of hockey."

Roy was correct in his suspicions. The once friendly Winnipeg fans took to a full-throated Bronx cheer of "Pat-rick, Pat-rick" midway through the first period when the Avalanche were assessed a bench minor.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2013 C2

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