July 16, 2018

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Winnipeg Jets (52 – 20 – 10)

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Jets' PK within striking distance of league's top tier

TODD KOROL / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on Calgary Flames' Mark Jankowski during the shootout in their NHL hockey game in Calgary, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018.</p>

TODD KOROL / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on Calgary Flames' Mark Jankowski during the shootout in their NHL hockey game in Calgary, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018.

CALGARY — It’s still a work in progress, but Winnipeg’s penalty killing has taken some significant strides lately — including a perfect four-for-four effort Saturday against the Flames.

The Jets are now up to a season-best 81.8 per cent efficiency, which has the team knocking on the door of being among the top 10 in the NHL.

“In games like this, you need that. We weren’t getting the calls going our way and we had to kill a few more than we’d like to. You’ve still got to find a way to win a hockey game. The guys going out there, including our goaltender, did for the most part a really good job of keeping them to the outside, getting in shot lanes — that’s what a penalty kill looks like,” captain Blake Wheeler said Saturday.

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck credited the players in front of him for getting in shot lanes and being in prime position to keep danger at bay.

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CALGARY — It’s still a work in progress, but Winnipeg’s penalty killing has taken some significant strides lately — including a perfect four-for-four effort Saturday against the Flames.

The Jets are now up to a season-best 81.8 per cent efficiency, which has the team knocking on the door of being among the top 10 in the NHL.

"In games like this, you need that. We weren’t getting the calls going our way and we had to kill a few more than we’d like to. You’ve still got to find a way to win a hockey game. The guys going out there, including our goaltender, did for the most part a really good job of keeping them to the outside, getting in shot lanes — that’s what a penalty kill looks like," captain Blake Wheeler said Saturday.

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck credited the players in front of him for getting in shot lanes and being in prime position to keep danger at bay.

"They’ve been battling very hard. Working hard in front of me, and I think we have the chemistry now where they know where I need to see pucks. And they’re staying in the right spots, and when the puck does come they’re battling extremely hard and clearing out the rebounds," Hellebuyck said.

Coach Paul Maurice said there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but believes the team is trending up in that department.

"Our PK’s been good. I haven’t felt, even in the games that we’ve given up a goal, that we’ve been that far off it. Connor was a real important part of that. That’s where he had to do his heaviest work. But it’s getting better," Maurice said.

Overtime redemption has to wait

Winnipeg has been a disaster in overtime so far this season, going 0-6 in games decided in the 3-on-3 format. So everyone was choosing to look at the glass as being half-full after surviving the five minutes and getting Saturday’s game to a shootout.

"We didn’t lose in it. So it’s a step in the right direction. We’ve talked about it a little bit. With the amount of skill we have and the amount of ice out there, it should be a real advantage for us playing three-on-three," Wheeler said following the game. The Jets do have a 2-1 record now in shootouts.

"I like our odds in a shootout. We have a lot of skilled players," said Hellebuyck, who thought his teammates passed the latest overtime test with flying colours.

"I think we held the puck a little bit more and made them make those pressure decisions on when they should change, when they should attack and when not to. It really helps winning that first faceoff. That’s where you get the momentum going. I thought the guys did the right things," he said.

Maurice said he didn’t see as much risk-taking Saturday from his squad.

"I didn’t think either team had a whole lot going in that 3-on-3. You rarely see scrums, and there were about four of them. There are some places in it I still think we can better. We got it from wide-open, trade chances, down to scrums. Now, I’d like to get a little more action. There’s more there," he said.

Enstrom reaches milestone

Defenceman Toby Enstrom played in his 700th career game Saturday, all with the same franchise. He sits third all-time behind Bryan Little and Chris Thorburn for the Atlanta Thrashers turned Winnipeg Jets.

Enstrom, 33, has fallen down the depth chart a bit, but remains an important part of their defensive puzzle. He played 16:36 Saturday with a shot on goal and three blocks. That was the second-least among blue-liners. Only Dmitry Kulikov, at 14:19, played less.

Shortening the bench

Winnipeg’s fourth-line hasn’t been quite the same since Mathieu Perreault moved up the lineup following the injury to Mark Scheifele. And Maurice certainly hasn’t been deploying it the same way either.

The trio of Matt Hendricks, Marko Dano and Jack Roslovic saw limited even strength action Saturday. Hendricks did get some penalty killing time, while Roslovic was used on the power play.

Hendricks played 8:26, Roslovic had 7:08 and Dano a team-low 5:58.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

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.

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History

Updated on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 10:43 PM CST: Story edited

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