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This article was published 17/9/2018 (802 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There is no doubt this is Connor Hellebuyck’s crease, as the Vezina Trophy finalist might just be the most valuable member of the Winnipeg Jets.
But the quest to find him some quality relief on the cheap is off to a promising start.
Free-agent addition Laurent Brossoit stood tall Monday night in his Jets debut, making 39 saves to lead his team to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in the pre-season opener for both teams.
"Any time you come in the pre-season, especially with a new organization, it’s nice to get a good win and a good feeling after a win. Getting a lot of rubber, I felt the puck a lot. It was definitely a nice feeling to make an impression like that," said Brossoit.
The 25-year-old is looking for a fresh start after a nightmarish 2017-18 season that began with him as the No. 2 puckstopper for the Edmonton Oilers and ended with him in the minors.
Brossoit signed a one-year, US$650,000 contract with the Jets on July 1 and is expected to compete with Eric Comrie for the backup spot behind Hellebuyck.
"I was pretty nervous to start. First time you step on the ice in a game situation, regardless of the circumstance, you feel a little bit of nerves. Two, three minutes they pumped a few into my chest early, that got me a bit of a feel for the game. It kind of just rolled from there," said Brossoit.
He was one of several players under a spotlight in Monday’s game, and made the most of his first opportunity. Brossoit’s highlights included stopping Minnesota’s Justin Kloos twice on breakaways and denying Jordan Greenway on a third-period solo dash. He also woke up a sleepy Bell MTS Place crowd with a sensational glove save off Ryan Murphy later in the game.
It’s apparent he shares the same trainer as Hellebuyck, showing the same stoic, no-panic, big-body style even when things broke down in front of him.
"Being as close as I am with Helly, we have the bond to start with, it just makes that transition easier," said Brossoit.
Forward Marko Dano, who shed 15 pounds this summer in an attempt to get quicker and battle for full-time work, opened the scoring for the Jets. He was the beneficiary of a nice first-period rush from linemate Brendan Lemieux, who gained the offensive zone and then cut hard to the Minnesota net. Dano knocked home the loose puck.
Sami Niku, the reigning AHL defenceman of the year, drew the second assist on the play.
"I try to make that a staple of my game, taking pucks to the net, being a power forward. That was a power move, got a bounce, (Dano) did a great job of getting to the net and Sami made a great breakout pass there. That’s what I try to do," said Lemieux, who also got into a spirited third-period scrap with Nick Seeler.
"I told myself I wouldn’t get into anything during the pre-season. And it took me two periods," he said.
Niku’s offensive skills are evident, but he may still require some further AHL seasoning to work on his defensive game. In the second period, he was easily muscled off a puck in his own end, resulting in a tired Jets group being pinned in their zone for an extended period of time and taking a penalty.
Other highlights Monday included the line of Mathieu Perreault, Jack Roslovic and rookie Kristian Vesalainen, which was arguably the most dangerous on the night.
Perreault was his usual ferocious self on the forecheck, and it seemed to rub off on his young linemates.
You could tell Vesalainen was making a real effort to be defensively aware. He was often the first forward to bail out of the offensive zone and assume a defensive stance, helping out his defencemen in the neutral zone.
Vesalainen also showed he can handle some physical play. In the middle frame, he took a hard check that sent him face-first into the glass. Vesalainen shook it off, got up and continued to battle, ultimately getting the puck to Roslovic, who drew a penalty on the play with his speed.
They nearly combined on the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, with Perreault springing his linemates for a two-on-one. Roslovic fed Vesalainen for the one-timer, but Minnesota goalie Andrew Hammond made the stop.
Moments later, defenceman Joe Morrow ripped a shot off the crossbar that was called a goal on the ice — even if replays seemed to suggest it never crossed the goal-line. He was set up on the rush by Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine.
"Was it on the scoresheet? I haven’t seen the video yet, but I’m pretty sure that everybody says it didn’t go in. I just tried to shoot it hard so nobody could see it," Morrow sheepishly admitted afterward.
"It was pretty exciting to be able to get back into a competitive atmosphere. You can practise as much as you want, but (replicating) a game-like scenario is not easy to do. I’m glad I got to be able to get the rust out at home and be able to kind of progress."
Winnipeg continues its seven-game pre-season schedule Thursday in Edmonton.
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.