EDMONTON -- Mark Stuart arrived at his 600th NHL game Monday night and said there wasn't much time to ponder what it meant.

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This article was published 22/12/2015 (2104 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EDMONTON -- Mark Stuart arrived at his 600th NHL game Monday night and said there wasn't much time to ponder what it meant.

The 31-year-old defenceman has now played 317 games for the Winnipeg Jets franchise, and has been a full-time NHLer since 2007.

"Once you're in the middle of it, you don't think about it too much because you're just thinking about the games and winning games and playing well," Stuart said before the game against the Oilers. "It's something we'll look back on later and have some time to dwell on it.

"I feel fortunate to play, and play every game. Most guys in the league would say that, that it's a blessing to get to play any games. I've been very lucky and fortunate to make it this far."

Tackling mental barriers

THE sixth coach of the Edmonton Oilers in seven years has not been able to change things overnight.

Todd McLellan probably didn't expect to.

But the veteran NHL coach, hired last summer with more sweeping changes to the organization, has had both the outsider's and insider's view of the team and he was asked Monday what his new perspective has revealed to him about the franchise that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2005-06.

"I believe so far as a staff -- and when I say staff, you can expand that past the coaching staff, it's everybody that's new into the organization -- is the fact that we had to tackle some mental barriers within the organization," McLellan said. "The fact that we couldn't perform well and when it wasn't going (well) for everybody, I used the term 'folding our hand.'

"We've got to hold our cards longer and not fold our hand. I've really tried to drum that into the players and they've grasped it at times and at times they've let go of it.

"And we've tried to get more structure into our game. We've tried to fight the injury bug, which we can't control, but those two (other) areas, the structure and the belief system were big starting points for us and they still are.

"We still have to push that."

 

Auditioning for World Cup

THE Jets gave rookie Connor Hellebuyck a fifth straight start Monday night and it's pretty clear where coach Paul Maurice's trust is as No. 1 netminder Ondrej Pavelec works towards a return from his knee injury in the new year.

Hellebuyck has been fairly stable in his first eight NHL games and it has now started talk he could be the goalie for Team North America at the upcoming World Cup.

That'll be the Canadians and Americans under the age of 25.

Not long ago, Team North America GM Peter Chiarelli (Edmonton) and coach McLellan were so concerned about the team's goaltending prospects they appealed to the NHL and NHLPA to make an exception for the team to make sure it had a competent goalie.

That's all good with Maurice, who will serve an assistant coach for Team Europe.

"I think that if you've got a good enough goaltender to play in the No. 1 hole in any World Cup team you'd suffer through the chance he might get injured because he could slip and fall stepping off the sidewalk," Maurice said with a smile Monday. "You'd take it and run with it."

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca