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This article was published 20/4/2018 (1283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Matt Hendricks said it hasn’t been difficult to get pumped up for playoff hockey in Winnipeg. The veteran centre lives near Bell MTS Place and has been watching the crowds gather on the streets outside the rink before each home game.
But rather than just be a spectator yet again, Hendricks was thrown into action Friday after teammate Nikolaj Ehlers was a last-minute scratch.
"Well I live pretty close here. So I got a kick out of opening my patio door when the weather was nice at about three o’clock and listening to them and Facetiming my kids and showing them how cool it was. That’s not everywhere in this league, I’ll tell you that," Hendricks said following Game 5 of the atmosphere.
"These Canadian markets never cease to amaze me how outstanding they are come this time of year. The Winnipeg Jets may play in a smaller arena than most, but let me tell you it’s one of the loudest I’ve ever been in. It’s really a lot of fun, the energy levels are up, you can hardly hear yourself think out there," said Hendricks, a native of Minnesota who said beating his hometown team was extra special.
Hendricks and his teammates joined the party and basked in the glory of their first playoff series win in franchise history, a long-awaited moment for the Jets and their fan base.
But on the injury front Friday, it was more a case of one step forward — and a few steps back.
Goalie Steve Mason, who is truly having a cursed season, went down with an injury during the morning skate. Michael Hutchinson was called up from the Manitoba Moose to serve as backup to Connor Hellebuyck.
Mason, signed as a free agent last summer, has had an injury-plagued season that includes two concussions and a knee injury. This latest ailment is a lower-body injury suffered while doing "movement in the crease," according to head coach Paul Maurice. He had no further update following the game.
A few hours later, Ehlers was nowhere to be found as the Jets hit the ice for their pre-game warm-up. He participated in the morning skate and there was no indication he wouldn’t be able to play.
Maurice said following the game that Ehlers just wasn’t feeling right but wouldn’t clarify if it was an injury, or an illness, that kept him out.
"Just kind of a malaise," is all Maurice would say. "Would we have made a different call at 2-2 or 3-3, probably? But at 3-1, we wanted to be real sure."
The Jets lost another player as the game progressed. Joel Armia couldn’t make it out of the first period after suffering an upper-body injury shortly after scoring his first goal of the playoffs Friday night. Maurice had no further update following the game.
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There was some positive news for the Jets and their lineup.
Defenceman Tyler Myers played after getting injured last Sunday in Minnesota. Myers got tangled with Marcus Foligno and fell awkwardly, clearly tweaking something in his lower body.
Myers flew back to Winnipeg for treatment and didn’t play in Game 4. Maurice said he needed to get checked out to ensure this wasn’t an aggravation of hip and knee injuries that caused Myers to miss most of last season.
Myers played 22:49 in Game 5 and credited the training staff with helping him make a quick recovery.
"Gave it a little time to settle. It did exactly what we wanted," he said. "I even texted them (Thursday) night saying, ‘Thanks.’ They did a great job."
Although some people felt the play by Foligno was dirty — especially since the Wild forward appeared to punch the back of Myers’ knee as he tumbled to the ice — Myers wouldn’t to play the blame game. In fact, he said it didn’t play a role in his injury.
Foligno, a former teammate of Myers in Buffalo, texted Myers following the incident with an apology.
"Honestly, I haven’t put too much thought into it," Myers said. "I think I watched the replay once right after to kind of see what I was doing, really."
Winnipeg was without top-pairing defenceman Josh Morrissey Friday, as he served his one-game suspension for cross-checking Minnesota’s Eric Staal in the neck during Game 4.
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Bell MTS Place is known for the chants that often rain down from the rafters. And fans were certainly in full throttle Friday night.
"We Want Dubnyk," they shouted in unison, shortly after Minnesota’s starting goalie was yanked after giving up four goals on 10 shots.
"Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye," they screamed early in the third period, with minutes counting down on the Wild’s season.
"We Want Nashville," quickly followed.
"Book Your Tee Time," came after.
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One of the loudest roars of the night was saved for Matthieu Gomercic.
The 20-year-old Winnipegger and his family took in the game and were acknowledged during a break in play during the first period. The crowd gave him a prolonged standing ovation after being shown on the big screen.
Gomercic is a member of the Humboldt Broncos and was one of the survivors of the tragic bus crash earlier this month in Saskatchewan that left 16 dead. He suffered several injuries while on his way to a playoff game with his teammates after a collision with a tractor-trailer.
The crash remains under RCMP investigation.
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.