Jets’ dance card overflowing

Injury-riddled club faces challenge of seven games in 11 days

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Paul Maurice has coached more than 1,100 games in the NHL, which is another way of saying he has already seen just about all there is to see in professional hockey.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/01/2015 (2884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Paul Maurice has coached more than 1,100 games in the NHL, which is another way of saying he has already seen just about all there is to see in professional hockey.

Even against the backdrop of a hockey resumé that resembles a phone book, Maurice says the hellish schedule the Jets are about to embark upon in the month of January is something exceedingly rare.

“There are a few difficult blocks and everybody goes through back-to-backs,” Maurice said following Jets practice at MTS Centre Friday morning. “And you can deal with the three (games) in four (nights) — that’s just the nature of this job.

Charles Rex Arbogast / the associated press files 'We've been through it all and probably nothing will surprise us' — Blake Wheeler on the Jets' busy January schedule

“I haven’t seen a four (games) in five (nights) in a long time. I remember living through one. It didn’t go so well for us some years ago. But five (games) in seven (nights)? It doesn’t matter who you’re playing — five in seven is a challenge.”

The five games in seven nights run Maurice refers to is part of a formidable January schedule which — beginning with tonight’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs at MTS Centre — will see the Jets play a total of 13 games, including seven on the road.

Ten of those games will come against opponents with records .500 or better and the schedule will see the Jets play Los Angeles and Anaheim back-to-back on the road Jan. 10 and 11, head home for a lone game against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 13 and then head back out on the road for games in Dallas and Chicago on Jan. 15 and 16.

Add to that a pair of games against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 8 (away) and Jan. 18 (home) that bookends the five-games-in-seven-nights run and the Jets will be playing seven games in 11 nights.

That would be an extraordinary challenge for a team that is healthy. But this schedule is something well beyond that for the Jets who are currently without their four top defencemen — Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom, Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba — as well as forward Evander Kane.

While Bogosian, Enstrom, Stuart and Trouba all skated before Jets practice on Friday, Maurice said Stuart and Trouba are still out until February at least and even a best-case scenario won’t see Bogosian and/or Enstrom return to the lineup until the end of January at the earliest.

The result of this is a Jets team that is clinging to a wild-card playoff spot heads into January riding a two-game losing streak and facing an extraordinary month of hockey that could ultimately make or break this team’s 2014-15 season.

“Obviously we know we have some tough tests coming up,” said Jets centre Mark Scheifele, “and I think it’s a matter of getting your rest when you need it. On days off, getting your rest and taking care of your body will be a huge thing in this next little stretch.”

Maurice said he will be very careful in how he schedules practices in January and will err on the side of giving his team extra rest, as he has all season long. “I think that recovery time is important,” said Maurice. “We’ve been very fortunate with over-use injuries — we haven’t seen those this year. We’ve just had bad breaks, pardon the pun.”

Jets forward Blake Wheeler said he hadn’t looked at his team’s schedule beyond tonight’s game against the Leafs, but noted January won’t be the first time this season the Jets have had to battle the schedule maker.

The Jets played 15 games in November, including 10 on the road, and fared quite well, going 8-4-3 through that stretch.

“Our November schedule was crazy — that was tough,” said Wheeler. “We’ve been through it and probably nothing will surprise us.”

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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