Copp sees chance to impress Oly coach

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Andrew Copp admits he might have some extra giddy-up to his game on Monday night. The head of the U.S. Olympic Team will be standing on the other bench at Canada Life Centre in the form of Pittsburgh Penguins bench boss Mike Sullivan.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2021 (442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Andrew Copp admits he might have some extra giddy-up to his game on Monday night. The head of the U.S. Olympic Team will be standing on the other bench at Canada Life Centre in the form of Pittsburgh Penguins bench boss Mike Sullivan.

Although he’s likely a long shot to make it onto the US Olympic hockey team, Andrew Copp has certainly played his way into consideration with a strong start to this season. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“Yeah, a little bit,” Copp said with a sheepish grin on Sunday when asked about added motivation given the VIP audience.

Although he’s likely a long shot, Copp has certainly played his way into consideration with a strong start to this season. Forward Kyle Connor and goalie Connor Hellebuyck are locks for the American squad, while others such as defenceman Neal Pionk, Nate Schmidt and captain Blake Wheeler are at least on the radar.

“(Sullivan) gets that in every building he gets to. All the American guys get their best games,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.

“I think our guys have been really good with it. I’m happy with where we’re at. You’re never content, but I’ve liked — and it’s true of even the game in Vancouver — where we’re going with our game. Part of it is those Olympians, or potential Olympians, are driving the game pretty hard.”

•••

You’ll forgive the Jets if they don’t know whether they’re coming or going these days. Or what time it is. They’re in the middle of a strange stretch of hockey in which they will play eight straight games in a different time zone than the previous one.

After finishing up a seven-game homestand last Tuesday against Edmonton here in the central time zone, the Jets headed west to face the Oilers on Thursday (mountain). Then it was off to Vancouver on Friday (pacific). After Monday’s home game against Pittsburgh (central), the Jets will play Wednesday in Columbus (eastern), Friday in Minnesota (central) and Saturday in Calgary (mountain) before it’s back to Winnipeg next Monday against Arizona (central).

“We’re maybe more used to it than other teams, but that’s one of the big disparities in the NHL,” said Maurice.

“You’ll get teams on the East coast that will be in their time zone for weeks on end. Then it’s an in and out. They talk about a tough trip out west. We did that every weekend for the last three weeks. We deal with it the best we can. It’s a major change. I spent a big bulk of my career on the east coast without an appreciation for it. You get here and you learn then. You get to your players, your strength coach, and your trainers a lot more in these stretches ‘how are we doing?’ We moved really good today, better than I thought we would, based on the time zone change.”

•••

Veteran forward Paul Stastny is expected to miss a seventh straight game on Monday with a bone bruise on his foot. But Maurice is hopeful a return isn’t too far away,

Stastny, 35, is slated to join the Jets for their morning skate and be put through a good workout. Although he was absent from practice Sunday, he did skate on his own while the Jets were away on the two-game road trip,

“Hopefully that’s the start of him coming back,” said Maurice. “I think once he gets back on the ice I don’t think it’s very long after that up to the conditioning part of it. They’re pretty comfortable that they’ve been able to do enough to keep him not far off it.”

•••

Winnipeg Jets' Evgeny Svechnikov has become a fan favourite based on the club's recent social media posts. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

Evgeny Svechnikov has opened plenty of eyes with his impressive play, winning a roster spot in training camp and becoming an important part of Winnipeg’s forward group. He’s also quickly becoming a fan favourite, thanks to a mic’d up segment posted by the club on their social media accounts last week in which the 25-year-old Russian is an absolute riot during a recent game against Los Angeles.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard. This is your captain speaking. Saturday night, in sunny Winnipeg. Let’s do this baby. Buckle up for this beautiful flight. Make sure you get nice ice cold beer and a bag of popcorn because we’re going to have some good times baby,” Svechnikov says to himself as he skates laps during the pre-game warmup.

Svechnikov yaks its up with plenty of teammates and opponents — repeatedly calling them “brother” — and at one point is caught singing “All I need is your love tonight,” during a television timeout.

Maurice said the video became must-see TV within the dressing room and the coach’s room this week. It also further cemented Svechnikov as a shrewd off-season pickup.

“It’s another personality to interact with in a room. So it’s really important that you have a leadership core. That’s critical. But it can’t be just them, and a bunch of other people who don’t say anything. Because that leadership core will get fatigued talking all the time,” said Maurice.

“There’s more going on in our practices now, where everybody’s hooting on each other. And that’s all from having a little bit more veteran team. There’s not as many kids where it’s just shut up and stand in the corner type of thing. They’re part of it. This is a fun group like that. And if you’re playing hard and playing right, you can let that out. You can show that. When you’re struggling or not playing well, everybody’s a little quieter, nobody wants to be seen as the guy who’s not taking it seriously. But we’re playing alright here, and it’s fun for the coaches, too.”

•••

Former Jets star Patrik Laine is mourning the loss of his father. The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Sunday that Harri Laine had passed away. No other details were released.

“The family thanks everyone for their support and for understanding their need for privacy at this time,” the organization said in a release.

Laine, the second-overall pick by Winnipeg in 2016, has repeatedly talked about the important role his father and mother have played in his life, and they were constant fixtures at the rink during his initial years with the Jets.

Laine, who was traded last January to Columbus, suffered an oblique injury earlier this month that is expected to sideline him for between four and six weeks. That would include this Wednesday’s game against his old teammates in Winnipeg. He has three goals and seven assists in 10 games this year.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

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.

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