Jets know there’s more work to be done
Always room for improvement despite great start to season
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The Winnipeg Jets hit the quarter mark of the NHL regular season riding high, following Tuesday’s action second in the Central Division, behind only the Dallas Stars.
With a mark of 14-6-1, the Jets actually have the best winning percentage (.690) in the division, making them among the league’s biggest surprises through 21 games. Not inside the room, however, where the confidence continues to grow and the early success, while certainly welcome, isn’t all that shocking to the players.
With that confidence is also an understanding that there’s more hockey to be played over their 82-game season and more work to be done to build on a strong start.
“It’s exciting to see a lot of the things we’ve changed in the off-season, systems we’ve changed and adjusted, coming to fruition. There are nights when we’re getting rewarded for playing the way we want to play,” Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey said early Tuesday, ahead of their game against the visiting Colorado Avalanche. “The quality of the game, the quality of play, just keeps increasing and the intensity ramps up. There is lots that we can work on and continue to get better at as a team, but we’re really happy with our first 20 games.”
Morrissey, who leads the Jets with 25 points, is one of the biggest reasons behind Winnipeg’s success this year.
The Jets No. 1 defenceman was named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday, following a stretch that began with Morrissey’s first career multi-goal game, including the overtime winner in a 4-3 triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes. That was the first of two OT goals in the week for Morrissey, who also had the winning goal against the Dallas Stars Friday, as well as an assist in a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.
“Give him all of the credit,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “I’m thrilled for him that he’s been recognized for that.”
The Jets welcomed David Gustafsson back after he missed Sunday’s win over Chicago. Gustafsson took his spot back from Dominic Toninato at centre on the fourth line, playing between Jansen Harkins and Mikey Eyssimont.
The Jets also gave Morgan Barron, who returned against the Blackhawks Sunday after a four-week absence due to wrist surgery, a bump from the fourth line to the top line alongside Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Winnipeg tried Axel Jonsson-Fjallby there Sunday against the Blackhawks and before that it was veteran Sam Gagner, who will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game Tuesday.
Indeed, the tryout at right wing on the Jets top line remains a work in progress.
“Just reliable defensively, which will free them up a little bit more offensively. And they can gamble a little bit more when we need them to gamble a little bit more. And someone that can hang onto the puck and make plays,” Bowness said when asked what he’s looking for on the right side with Connor and Dubois. “Your top players have to play with your top players as much as you can when you’re healthy and you can do that. It’s great to have Morgan back. We know he was playing very well earlier this year with (Adam Lowry) and (Mason Appleton). But that situation can’t present itself right now, so we want him playing an important role and this is an important role for him.”
Defenceman Logan Stanley joined his teammates at Tuesday’s morning skate, marking the first time he’s skated with a group since being placed on injured reserve with a broken foot Nov. 2. Bowness said Stanley had been getting in some on-ice sessions by himself and will still need a couple practices under his belt before he’s considered an option to play.
An emotional affair
Bowness finished up his morning media availability with a lump in his throat. With Winnipeg celebrating Hockey Fights Cancer month with a special celebration prior to puck drop against the Avalanche, the Jets head coach got emotional when asked to reflect on what the game means to him.
“Well, my dad died to cancer and I just lost my good friend Tommy Kurvers,” Bowness said. “And a really good friend of ours in Halifax, we went to high school with her, her granddaughter is fighting cancer. It means a lot.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 10:22 PM CST: Updates with post-game stats