On Tuesday night, the Winnipeg Jets were missing four key guys on the back end. Dustin Byfuglien's still on a leave of absence, Nathan Beaulieu's at least three weeks away from returning from injury, Josh Morrissey missed a second-straight contest with a minor injury, and Dmitry Kulikov is with his family sharing in the birth of a baby girl.
Somehow, the Jets managed to outscore the host Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1, with three goals coming from their patchwork defensive group. Head coach Paul Maurice leaned on Neal Pionk for more than 26 minutes of ice time and the ex-Ranger delivered a goal, while 18-year-old rookie Ville Heinola notched his first NHL tally and Tucker Poolman also scored.
Netminder Connor Hellebuyck, who struggled in the season-opener against the Rangers last week and was a spectator for the last two games, had a stellar 37-save performance in Pittsburgh.
So, the Jets are finally headed home and will take a 2-2-0 record into Thursday's meeting at Bell MTS Place with the Central Division-rival Minnesota Wild.
- No Morrissey, No Kulikov, No problem: Depleted defence squad powers Jets past Penguins 4-1
- Thin black-and-blue line: Jets scramble to fill holes on defence
What we're reading
- Pressure's on 29: Jets forward Patrik Laine an NHLer with much to prove during the 2019-20 campaign. (Hockey News)
- Will Stars align?: It's been a rough start for a Central Division squad expected to make some noise this year. (Dallas Morning News)
- Points to ponder: Hockey Insider gives his weekly 31 thoughts on all things NHL. (Sportsnet)
- Freedom to fly: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault taking reins off his mobile blue-line unit. (New York Post)
In case you missed it
- Patchwork defence: The names on the Jets' blue line are barely recognizable with injuries to Morrissey and Dmitry, and Byfulgien's never-ending absence.
- Prepare for impact: Penguins winner Brandon Tanev, a guy who threw his body around at will for the Jets the last few seasons, prepares to face his old buddies.
- Back behind bench: Jon Rempel, who guided the U of M women's team to a national title in 2018, has returned to coach the new-look Bisons this season.
- Downtown hosts: The Jets finally get to have guests over Thursday as the Minnesota Wild pop by for Winnipeg's long-awaited home-opener at 7 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.
- Better on the road: The WHL's Winnipeg Ice hope to keep the good times rolling on the road when they visit Medicine Hat, Alta., on Friday and Swift Current, Sask., Saturday.
- Taming the Cougars: The Manitoba Bisons hockey squad hooks up with the Mount Royal Cougars on Friday night and late Saturday afternoon in Calgary.
- Memorable tally: Jets rookie defenceman Ville Heinola fires his first career NHL goal, with the assists to Finnish countryman Patrik Laine and centre Mark Scheifele.
- Neal not done yet: So, turns it James Neal hasn't lost his scoring touch. After struggling in Calgary last year, he's rocking in Edmonton -- although it helps when you have a guy named McDavid tossing you the puck.