Matt Hendricks says he was the victim of the kind of cheap shot the NHL is trying to eliminate.

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Matt Hendricks says he was the victim of the kind of cheap shot the NHL is trying to eliminate.

The Winnipeg Jets veteran centre's night ended early Tuesday after a second-period hit to the head from Washington Capitals defenceman Madison Bowey, a Winnipegger.

Bowey was called for interference and went to the penalty box, but Hendricks went to a quiet room as part of the league's concussion protocol and did not return.

Hendricks has since passed all of the required tests and is eligible to play Friday when the Jets (33-15-9) host the Colorado Avalanche at Bell MTS Place.

Speaking after practice Thursday, Hendricks said Bowey's transgression has no place in hockey.

"I'm pretty disappointed with the hit," he said. "In my opinion, that's exactly the stuff we're trying to get out of the game."

Hendricks said he administered a clean bodycheck on the Caps' rookie earlier in the shift and was on the receiving end of some ugly payback.

"It was his retaliation for what happened at the blue line at the other end of the ice. I'm 20 feet away from the puck, looking at the puck, trying to skate to it and I get blindsided right in the head. That wasn't anywhere legal," he said.

Bowey was fined $1,890.68 by NHL's department of player safety, the maximum allowable under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. "I don't care about (the punishment). I didn't like the hit," he said. "That's up to (the department), they're the pros in that department."

Hendricks figured he'd avoided a concussion — but in this era of the NHL his opinion didn't matter. He said removing players from the decision-making process on their own health and well-being is the responsible way to operate.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the time it's the right move. Whether it be our trainers or the spotters or the league calls in and pulls a player, we're trying to protect each other, the assets of the league and that's the players," he said. "They need to see some physical proof I'm doing better, (not just) asking a 36-year-old guy that comes from the old realm of hockey where you say you're OK whenever you can."

The fourth-line centre will likely skate between wingers Nic Petan and Joel Armia against the Avs (31-21-4), winners of two straight.


Wingers Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers have been dropped to the third line and will flank dependable checking centre Andrew Copp against the Avalanche.

Neither has been dominant offensively the last three games — both scored one goal apiece — but a more pressing concern is some casual and careless defensive play.

Laine is a minus-7 in the stretch of games that includes losses to the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers and a win over the Capitals in overtime. Ehlers is a minus-4 during the same span.

Ehlers' brutal giveaway late in the first period Sunday resulted in a goal by Mats Zuccarello that sparked the Rangers to a 3-1 triumph. He wasn't strong enough on the wall to get pucks out of his own end Tuesday and had trouble with defensive coverage against Washington.

The Danish forward, who turned 22 Wednesday, didn't mince words when asked to assess his play of late.

"To be completely honest, I've played like s---," said Ehlers, who has 21 tallies this season, but just two in his last 13 games. "I know what I need to do to be better next game and I have to go out and do that.

"Not satisfied with the way I've played at all. It was pretty much everything. I didn't work hard enough, I wasn't able to keep the puck on my stick. Defensively, I was losing my guy. It's something I have to get back to. I know I can do it, so it started in practice today."

After the skate, Laine had some disparaging words for his recent performances, as well.

"Well, I have 'dash-7' in three games so it's not very good," he said. "Overall, I don't like my game right now, so just try to get better. That's the key, work hard and hopefully it can get better than this."

He's excited about the new trio's potential.

"It's nice to be able to play with Nik and now this gentleman (Copp) in the middle; he's working super hard every single shift and has a lot of skill, also. I think it's going to be a good line."

Jets centre Mark Scheifele, coming off a huge three-point effort against Washington, was between Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor during morning line rushes, while Bryan Little centred Mathieu Perreault and Jack Roslovic.

Those units jump-started the Jets' dramatic comeback against the Caps.

Maurice said the line-juggling reflects the heady play of Roslovic and Connor just as much as the need to give Laine and Ehlers a chance to work things out on another unit.

"This isn't an A-plus or an F on their performances. Sometimes, other guys are going better and you want to make sure you recognize that, too," he said. "I think Roslovic was going really well and that's what we needed in that game.

"I don't even think it's a demotion. (Laine and Ehlers will) play a bunch of minutes, big minutes. They're going to get all their power-play time. They're going to play with a little bit different centre and play against different people, as well."

Friday's game is the Jets' eighth straight on home ice, with two more to go. They host Florida Sunday and Los Angeles Tuesday before playing the Blues in St. Louis next Friday and the Stars in Dallas the next night.


Brendan Lemieux was returned to the Manitoba Moose Thursday.

The 21-year-old winger played just one game with the Jets — Feb. 6 against the Arizona Coyotes — in his latest stint with the NHL club.

He’s expected to dress tonight when the Moose host Grand Rapids at 7 p.m. at the downtown arena.

 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

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).