Confident Ehlers fighting to stay, pots first pre-season goal

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THE odds that he'll stay would seem to be longer as each day goes by, only because the task gets that much more difficult as the first games of the new NHL approach.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/10/2014 (3049 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE odds that he’ll stay would seem to be longer as each day goes by, only because the task gets that much more difficult as the first games of the new NHL approach.

Left-winger Nikolaj Ehlers had something to say about that on Tuesday night.

When chatter was increasing that, having played all four of the Winnipeg Jets’ exhibition games to date, he was starting to get low on fuel. Ehlers found the net for his first pre-season goal and it turned out to be the winner in a 2-1 Jets victory over the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre.

The 18-year-old first-round draft pick, taken ninth overall by Winnipeg last June, now has a goal and an assist for five pre-season outings.

He called for and received a clever pass from Tuesday’s linemate Matt Halischuk (who did most of the hard work by deking Ottawa defender Curtis Lazar into the wrong spot) and then whipped a shot into the open side at 6:22 of the second period.

“I did (call for it),” Ehlers said after the game, still beaming about the goal. “And not just before the pass and after the pass, too. I was so happy to score that goal. It was pretty cool.”

The 18-year-old from Aalborg, Denmark was clearly charged about the goal and for an offensive machine that churned out 104 points last season for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, he said he was a bit lost.

“I put it in and I had no idea how to celebrate,” Ehlers said. “I was just standing there and just happy to score and it was amazing.

“But I went out there and played my game. We played good today, I think we played a really good game. We had them five against five.”

Jets coach Paul Maurice paired Ehlers with Halischuk and Nic Petan for Tuesday’s game and said the finally scoring in the pre-season is worth much confidence.

“An awful lot, especially the younger players because they put so much stock in their offence,” Maurice said. “Most of these kids produce huge numbers so that’s how they view themselves and value themselves as hockey players.

“So that first goal is more confidence and I’m glad to see him get it.”

While the talk has been how his play might have been fading into a return to the Mooseheads soon, Ehlers said Tuesday he feels like he’s been getting better every game.

“To be honest, I think it’s been going better and better,” he said. “I wouldn’t say easier. This is the NHL. It doesn’t get easy at all. The only way you can make it better for yourself is to go out there and play your game and work hard. I think I’ve been taking steps every single game I’ve played here. It felt pretty good out there today.

“So I’m really happy with that. We’ll just see what happens.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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