Jets play for Winnipeg, not Canada

Not feeling pressure, even as eyes of nation focus in on them


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NASHVILLE — They are Canada’s last team standing, the final hope this season to snap a 25-year drought that has seen Lord Stanley take up residence south of the border.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/04/2018 (1858 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NASHVILLE — They are Canada’s last team standing, the final hope this season to snap a 25-year drought that has seen Lord Stanley take up residence south of the border.

While this may be a major source of pride for many Manitobans, the Winnipeg Jets say they’re not feeling any extra pressure — or spending much time thinking about it.

It’s business as usual, albeit with an entire nation of hockey fans looking on to see if they will finally be the team.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Jets forward Patrik Laine missed two practices this week due to a lingering "malaise."

“Everybody’s happy to be here and representing Canada and Winnipeg. So that’s something we are going to have to be proud of,” Finnish sniper Patrik Laine said following Friday’s morning skate. Yeah, there were only two Canadian teams in the playoffs this year, and now it’s only one left. So hopefully we can represent Canada and Winnipeg well and get some more wins.”

The Montreal Canadiens were the last Canadian club to sip from the Cup back in 1993. While other franchises have come close, they’ve ultimately fallen short.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler said it hasn’t been a topic of discussion in the room, even if the Jets bandwagon may have some out-of-town passengers these days.

“I play for Winnipeg,” he said.



Speaking of Laine, he raised some eyebrows earlier this week by leaving a pair of practices early and not skating at the one on Wednesday. Naturally, that led to some concern he was battling an injury or illness of some kind.

Any doubts about his status for Game 1 against Nashville were erased when he was a full participant in Friday’s morning skate. Afterwards, Laine explained his poor practice attendance.

“Mostly just recovery. I was pretty exhausted after the last series. So just tried to get a little bit of rest. No issues and no concerns. So nice to play again,” said Laine, who scored two goals and added two assists in the first round against the Minnesota Wild.

Laine said there was never any concern about his playing status.

“That’s been our plan the whole week, that it doesn’t matter if I’m going to take a couple days off, I’m still going to play. Just try to be ready to play every game day. Nothing’s changed,” he said.

Laine predicted his best hockey is still to come, while admitting the challenges get tougher as you go along in the playoffs.

“I’m pretty comfortable in these games. These are the games I enjoy the most. My game is going to be better as soon as the stakes go higher. I’m happy to be here right now and hopefully be good on the ice, and maybe get us a couple of wins,” he said.



He was a no-show during the first-round, but Toby Enstrom finally made his 2018 playoff debut Friday night.

And not a moment too soon, according to the veteran Jets defenceman.

“This is exciting times, the time of year you want to play hockey, so I’m just happy to be back,” said Enstrom, who returned to his familiar pairing with Dustin Byfuglien.

Enstrom suffered a lower-body injury in practice in late February and has been hampered since. He returned to action for a brief period but had been out of the lineup since March 23 as he continued to rehabilitate.

Although he’s not the offensive force he once was, Enstrom is still a smooth-skating, puck-moving blue-liner.

“It’s a big deal. Tobes is a very intelligent hockey player. The little plays he makes, in my opinion, go pretty unappreciated. To have him jump back in, he’s going to be a big pickup for us on the back end,” said defenceman Tyler Myers.

Enstrom said it was difficult not being a part of the franchise’s first-ever playoff series win. He’s been with the Atlanta/Winnipeg organization his entire career.

“It’s always hard to stand on the side, but right now I’m feeling good and I’m happy, so I’m just looking forward now. I’m the guy who wants to play every night, so of course it’s hard to stand on the side but the team has been playing really well, so that makes it a lot easier. I’m happy to be back and looking forward to the series,” said Enstrom.

His return forced Joe Morrow out of the lineup Friday. Ben Chiarot was partnered with Myers, while Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey were in their usual shutdown role together.



In other injury news, forward Joel Armia missed the series opener against Nashville as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury suffered a week ago against Minnesota. He skated this week in a no-contact jersey. Veteran Matt Hendricks took his spot on Friday and skated on the fourth line with Andrew Copp and rookie Jack Roslovic.

Adam Lowry was between Bryan Little (moving to the wing) and Brandon Tanev on the third line.

Forward Mathieu Perreault made an appearance at Friday’s morning skate but didn’t play. He’s continuing to work his way back from an upper-body injury that occurred during Game 1 against the Wild.

The only other player out right now is defenceman Dmitry Kulikov, who has not resumed skating following a lower-body injury in early March. His status for the rest of the playoffs remains a mystery.

Goalie Steve Mason, who injured himself in practice during the Minnesota series, was in the lineup Friday as a backup to Connor Hellebuyck.

Healthy scratches Friday included goalie Michael Hutchinson, Morrow and Tucker Poolman on defence, and forwards Shawn Matthias and Marko Dano.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.


Updated on Saturday, April 28, 2018 10:30 AM CDT: Final

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