Connor lone Jet to dodge COVID-19

Maybe virus is allergic to goals – winger has 40 so far

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Kyle Connor is in a class by himself — and it’s not just his sharp shooting that sets him apart.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/03/2022 (256 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Kyle Connor is in a class by himself — and it’s not just his sharp shooting that sets him apart.

The 25-year-old winger is the lone Winnipeg Jets regular to evade the COVID-19 virus since the outset of the global pandemic in 2020 and, thus, is the only one to suit up for all 67 games of the 2021-22 NHL season.

But his teammates are downplaying the first-time 40-goal-scorer’s good fortune.

Winnipeg Jets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois (80) and Arizona Coyotes’ Clayton Keller (9) battle for the puck during the first period of NHL action in Winnipeg on Sunday. (Fred Greenslade / The Canadian Press)

“Let’s not jinx him,” said Adam Lowry after the morning skate, while Brenden Dillon rapped his knuckles on the table — it wasn’t wood — as they met with the media Sunday. “We just hope everyone stays healthy.”

Eight days ago in Chicago, Lowry joined the protracted list of Jets who’ve tested positive for the virus, while the club was preparing to face the Central Division-rival Blackhawks.

Lowry put the pedal down and drove alone from one legendary windy city to its blustery counterpart to the north, stopping briefly at the Canadian border before receiving the green light to proceed.

He spent the next four days holed up at home before rejoining his teammates for Friday’s contest against Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets, an eventual 4-3 overtime triumph for the Jets.

“I thought after escaping the outbreaks and things like, maybe I had some more natural immunity and was going to squeak this one out. I was pretty disappointed to hear about the results,” said Lowry, a deeply invested listener as the Jets posted a 6-4 win over Chicago at United Center.

“Yeah, it was nice. I could catch the game …it’s exciting, listening to (CJOB play-by-play man Paul) Edmonds on the call and stuff like that. I don’t mind driving. The roads were good, the car was nice.”

He also chatted with new (old) teammate Mason Appleton after he was reacquired from the Seattle Kraken on the eve of the NHL trade deadline.

Lowry and Appleton have now had a pair of games together, joined on a line by Zach Sanford, another deadline pickup. The veteran centre said the unexpected “bye week” wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute.

“It was one of those things where you try and do as much as you can away from the rink to stay ready and to be ready when you’re back in the lineup, but you can’t really replicate game speed and the intensity and the battles and things like that,” said Lowry.

“You just have to get thrown back in to get used to it. It was nice to get back in there (Friday), get some battling in.”

Speaking for the first time since long-time linemate Andrew Copp was dealt to the Rangers, Lowry said it was difficult to see a close friend and valuable colleague shipped out.

“I’m real sad to see him go. He’s meant a lot to my career and to my success personally. He’s a great player, a great friend and it’s tough losing guys like that. But we wish him nothing but the best,” he said. “It’s a tough day. You lose a good friend and, at the same time, you’re happy for him and you’re happy that he gets to reunite with a couple of good buddies (Jacob Trouba and Tyler Motte).

“He gets to go to a place where they have a great chance to win, they have a great goalie and it’s a great city. Hopefully it’s a good fit for him there and he continues on with the tremendous year he’s having this year.”

+++

Logan Stanley’s defensive strife last week, particularly against Ottawa and Columbus, was as conspicuous as the presence of the towering man himself. So, news that Stanley would be replaced on the back end by Ville Heinola against Arizona — owing to some nagging injuries — was likely met with some skepticism.

Winnipeg Jets’ Zach Sandord (13) checks Arizona Coyotes’ Vladislav Kolyachonok (92) during the first period. (Fred Greenslade / The Canadian Press)

“Stan is a little banged up, so we’re going to give him a couple days to rest up,” said interim head coach Dave Lowry, hours before puck drop against the Coyotes.

Heinola played eight games with Winnipeg from Jan. 25 to Feb. 14, collecting assists in each of his last two games. He returned to the Manitoba Moose for a long stretch but was recalled by the Jets early last week as their seventh blue-liner.

“The strength of his game is his feet and his first pass,” said interim head coach Dave Lowry. “When we say that, he still has to be a good defender. We know he’s not going to run over guys. For him to be a good defender, he has to get in and be quick, use his feet. I want to see him relax and enjoy the game.”

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Former Jets captain Andrew Ladd is on the shelf with a lower-body injury suffered last month and might be out the rest of the season. Ladd, 36, is just eight games away from reaching 1,000 for his career.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner had six goals and nine points in 42 games, going pointless in 10 consecutive games before getting hurt at home against Dallas on Feb. 20.

+++

Veteran winger Phil Kessel played his 965th consecutive regular-season game to move past Doug Jarvis for the second-longest streak in NHL history.

He trail only Philadelphia Flyers blue-liner Keith Yandle, who is at 988 and counting.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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