Jets grounded in pre-season opener

Inexperienced squad struggles to produce offence in Edmonton


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It had all the scintillating action you’d expect from the first pre-season game of the season for two NHL teams sitting most of their stars.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/09/2019 (1356 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It had all the scintillating action you’d expect from the first pre-season game of the season for two NHL teams sitting most of their stars.

Which is to say that if you like mistimed passes, broken plays, multiple offsides and icings, you were in for a thrill-a-minute experience.

In the end, a collection of Edmonton Oilers players and prospects skated to a 2-0 victory over a makeshift group of Winnipeg Jets regulars and hopefuls Monday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Yes, the final result was moot, as all exhibition contests are. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t value to the whole exercise.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice iced a rather inexperienced lineup containing a number of players battling for forward depth positions and spots on the blue-line. While no decision will be made on one game, there was plenty of opportunity for players to make an impression, one way or the other.

With that in mind, let’s break it down.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson Winnipeg Jets' Cameron Schilling and Mason Appleton chase Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during second period NHL preseason action in Edmonton, Monday.

THE SKINNY: not that it matters to Winnipeg fans, but the Milan Lucic for James Neal trade already looks like a big win for Edmonton. Neal acquitted himself quite nicely on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and veteran Sam Gagner, as they combined for both goals.

In both cases, the Jets got caught running around in their own end against what was Edmonton’s top line on the night, with Connor McDavid sitting this one out. On the first goal, defenceman Cam Schilling appeared to lose Neal in front of the net, as the Edmonton winger’s shot hit rearguard Tucker Poolman before beating goaltender Eric Comrie.

On the second goal, it was Poolman unable to handle a puck behind his net, which the Oilers took advantage of as Nugent-Hopkins found himself with all kinds of room to beat Comrie. Poolman’s defence partner, Nathan Beaulieu, was also slow to react to the sudden turn of events.

With so many changes to the Winnipeg defence core — Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot have all departed while Dustin Byfuglien is on an indefinite leave of absence — there could be some blue-line growing pains in the early stages here as everyone gets accustomed to their new roles.

It’s worth noting Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft, who normally observes game from high above the ice, joined the rest of the staff on the bench Monday for some additional hands-on teaching, which is apparently by design this pre-season.

Comrie was the busiest and most reliable Winnipeg player with 31 saves, and you have to wonder if general managers from other NHL clubs were paying attention. Assuming No. 1 netminder Connor Hellebuyck and backup Laurent Brossoit are both healthy to start the year, Comrie will be sent to the Manitoba Moose but first has to clear waivers. Could another team take a flyer on him?

With offensive stars such as Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers kept at home, and snipers Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor still without contracts and not in camp, there wasn’t a whole lot of firepower in Winnipeg’s lineup. And it showed. The try was there, including 25 shots, but just not a whole lot of polish around the net as Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner recorded the shutout.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson Winnipeg Jets' Jack Roslovic is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Matt Benning during first period NHL preseason action in Edmonton, Monday.


1. D Neal Pionk: Playing his first game since coming over from the New York Rangers in the Trouba trade, Pionk showed off his offensive skill and puck-moving ability on several occasions. He led all defencemen with four shots in 21:22 of action, quarterbacked a pair of power plays (which had a couple decent chances but didn’t score) and managed to avoid any glaring gaffes. He’ll never be mistaken for an overly physical player, but his positioning was sound and he blocked three shots and threw three hits.

2. F Andrei Chibisov: The book on the Russian free agent, who was signed out of the KHL this summer, was that he was big. But not every player with size uses it to their advantage. Chibisov threw a hit on his first shift of the night and stood out a few times for the way he used his powerful frame to win puck battles — including one in the corner on the power play, and another down the left ring on a rush. He did make one high-risk cross-ice pass attempt that Edmonton’s Gagner nearly picked off for a breakaway. Finished the night with three hits, a takeaway and was minus-one in 17:39 of ice time, and won the only faceoff he took.

3. F Joona Luoto: He had one of Winnipeg’s best scoring chances early in the second period, getting a shot from in tight and collecting his own rebound for another attempt. Later in the frame, the Finnish free agent had a terrific backcheck to break up an Edmonton rush, then drew the first penalty of the game as his stick was slashed out of his hands as he led the rush. He also had a great chance from the slot on a third-period power play, and tied Pionk with a team-high four shots while playing 13:11. Also blocked two shots.

4. D Logan Stanley: Did our eyes deceive us? Was that really a between-the-legs breakout pass from his own zone? Yes, yes it was, as the 6-7, 231-pound defenceman showed a bit of flash on the night. The first-round draft pick also led an offensive rush where he gained the zone, dished the puck and then kept on cycling behind the net, Byfuglien-style. All in all, a pretty strong showing for a player whose NHL regular-season debut may be a lot closer than many people thought. A solid 19:44 of action, with three blocked shots and one shot on goal.

5. F Mason Appleton: There wasn’t a whole lot to report from Appleton on a night where there were few offensive chances for either squad. He did get his only shot on goal off the rush late in the middle frame after receiving a tape-to-tape stretch pass from Poolman, then had one rush early in the third that was thwarted. Played 14:38. Frankly, we expected to see a bit more from a player who should be in the mix for an increased role this season, if he can earn it.














The team flew back to Winnipeg following the game, and on-ice sessions resume to at Bell MTS Iceplex. Group A will be on at 9 a.m., with Group B at noon.

Winnipeg will play its second pre-season game Wednesday night when the Minnesota Wild come to Bell MTS Place. Expect a more experienced group, with the likes of Scheifele, Wheeler, Ehlers, Adam Lowry and Josh Morrissey likely to make their pre-season debuts.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Joel Persson during the third period in Edmonton, Monday.
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 Monday, September 16, 2019 11:34 PM CDT: Adds photos

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