Plenty of options for backup role
Hutchinson or Comrie will have big shoes to fill if Mason misses time
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2017 (1825 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There was no update Sunday on the health and well-being of Jets goalie Steve Mason as the NHL club returned to Winnipeg following a relatively successful four-game road trip.
The Jets won a pair of games in regulation, defeating the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, and suffered a pair of regulation losses to the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks, and are still in fine shape with a 14-6-3 record.
Winnipeg is tied for second place in the Central Division with Nashville and trailing only the St. Louis Blues, and tied for third in the Western Conference with the surging Predators and the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, whose success is the talk of the NHL.
The Jets host the Minnesota Wild (11-9-3) tonight at 7 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.
Of great concern, however, is the status of Mason, who took a puck to the mask in the first period againt the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. The Jets might require a replacement from their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, and there’s concern about a possible concussion.
Mason gave up goals to Sharks defenceman Tim Heed and centre Logan Couture on Saturday night in San Jose, he joined his teammates in the dressing room for the intermission but did not return to the crease for the middle frame.
Connor Hellebuyck took over and stopped 19 of 20 shots in relief to increase his save percentage on the season to .929. Midway through the game, the Jets announced Mason, a 10-year NHL veteran puckstopper, incurred an upper-body injury.
A hard one-timer from Sharks winger Jannik Hansen at 8:43 of the first was likely to blame for Mason’s early exit, as the blast struck him squarely in the mask. During the ensuing stoppage of play, he told the bench he was good to continue, but during the break he admitted to feeling unwell.
“He stayed in (after the shot) and said he was OK after that. We talked to him at the (TV) time out, but by the time he got off the ice he was not feeling right. For us, that’s enough. He’s got to come out,” said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice, following the 4-0 loss to the Sharks.
“He wasn’t feeling good. He was sick.”
The netminding tandem of Michael Hutchinson and Eric Comrie has been dynamite for the Moose (14-5-2) who have won nine of their last 10 and lead the AHL’s Central Division. Comrie’s latest gem was a 30-save shutout Saturday against the host Milwaukee Admirals to push his personal record to 8-4-1, with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
But promoting Hutchinson out of necessity seems most logical. Though he did not figure into their plans following the 2016-17 campaign and was left exposed for the expansion draft, Hutchinson knows the landscape after playing parts of four seasons with Winnipeg and has 41 career NHL victories.
Hutchinson has repeatedly refused interviews this season, demonstrating there’s a level of discontent with the direction his career has gone. However, the recent numbers with Manitoba don’t lie — in a back-up role, he’s 6-1-1 with a 2.14 GAA and .939 SP.
Hellebuyck (12-2-2), off to a brilliant start to his bounce-back season, will still get the bulk of the work moving ahead. But he’ll require some respite during a busy rest of November and a hectic December, meaning either Hutchinson or Comrie will have big shoes to fill if Mason is out for any length of time.
Mason’s Jets career began with significant turbulence after loses in his first three starts to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets. Since then, his play has been much improved and he’s officially gone 2-0-1, allowing six goals in 11 periods of hockey.
Hellebuyck, speaking a day before Mason was injured, said he’s a huge fan of his creasemate.
“He’s a great goaltender and you can see it in him every day. He works hard, he knows what he’s doing. He’s a veteran. He’s going to give himself the best chance to win every single night. And he shows that every day in practice.
Hellebuyck was asked if observing that approach from a former NHL rookie of the year and now long-established starter serve as motivation?
“Absolutely. And not only (Mason), but the entire team. You see the way they’re working hard at their game and I think it drives everyone,” he said.
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).