March 22, 2019

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Record: 44 – 26 – 4

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Winnipeg Jets (44 – 26 – 4)

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Tumbling Jets power play seeking much-needed lift

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press files</p><p>Jets centre Adam Lowry’s scoring attempt is stopped by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday.</p>

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press files

Jets centre Adam Lowry’s scoring attempt is stopped by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday.

It used to be so simple. At least, the Winnipeg Jets made it look that way, taking the league by storm with a potent power play that had opponents thinking twice about running afoul of the NHL rulebook.

But nothing is coming very easily for the Jets these days, especially when they find themselves with a man advantage. Winnipeg is stuck in a dreadful 0-for-17 skid over a six-game stretch heading into action tonight against the Ottawa Senators at Bell MTS Place.

It’s no coincidence the team has just two wins during that span. Not surprisingly, Friday’s schedule of events included plenty of video study, which included a detailed look at special teams.

“I think it’s just on the cusp of getting back on track. Generally, with our power play, once it gets hot it gets red-hot. You see three or four goals in a game,” said centre Adam Lowry, who knows a thing or two about NHL power plays, given he’s a key piece of Winnipeg’s penalty-killing unit.

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It used to be so simple. At least, the Winnipeg Jets made it look that way, taking the league by storm with a potent power play that had opponents thinking twice about running afoul of the NHL rulebook.

But nothing is coming very easily for the Jets these days, especially when they find themselves with a man advantage. Winnipeg is stuck in a dreadful 0-for-17 skid over a six-game stretch heading into action tonight against the Ottawa Senators at Bell MTS Place.

It’s no coincidence the team has just two wins during that span. Not surprisingly, Friday’s schedule of events included plenty of video study, which included a detailed look at special teams.

"I think it’s just on the cusp of getting back on track. Generally, with our power play, once it gets hot it gets red-hot. You see three or four goals in a game," said centre Adam Lowry, who knows a thing or two about NHL power plays, given he’s a key piece of Winnipeg’s penalty-killing unit.

Lowry is also a student of the game and a go-to figure to break down the on-ice action. Just don’t expect him to run to the coaching staff with any ideas.

"Nope, we’ve got guys that are paid a lot of money to do that. And we’ve got guys that are paid a lot of money to go out there and score goals. For the most part, they’ve done an exceptional job. There’s been games where our power play has carried us," Lowry said.

"Things like that go in stretches, where you’re not going to be clicking on all cylinders. Other teams pre-scout and, sometimes, you’ve got to find a different way to generate some chances and things like that. I don’t think it’s a lack of effort, or a lack of chances. You look at last game, there were some big saves and some scrambles there."

Indeed there were against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. But at the end of the night, Winnipeg went 0-for-4 and actually gave up a back-breaking short-handed goal in the second period, putting the team behind by a pair in an eventual 4-1 loss.

"I’d be really surprised going into a year if we said we weren’t going to face a little bit of adversity on our special teams at some point during the year. It’s not something I’m worried about at all," said defenceman Tyler Myers, who sees time on the second power-play unit.

"Our guys we have on the power play will get it going here at some point soon. When it does, we’ll have a stretch where we are the hottest power play in the league. A little adversity right now, we’ve shown that we’ve handled it well, fight through things like that. It’s just an aspect of the game that we’ll do just that in."

Based on the eye test, it appears the Jets seem to be static at times, repeatedly trying the same seam passes that worked so well earlier but that opponents have clearly caught on to. Shooting lanes are being sealed off, and players are too stationary.

One thing that has changed a bit with Winnipeg is the personnel.

After the power play was blanked in a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose on Feb. 5, head coach Paul Maurice made a significant swap in taking slumping sniper Patrik Laine off the top unit, replacing him with Jack Roslovic. Roslovic was coming off his first career hat trick against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 2, in which all his goals were scored with the man advantage. Maurice explained he wanted to reward the hot hand.

Since then, it’s been doughnuts for Winnipeg. And the Laine-Roslovic swap appears to have come to an end, as Laine was back with the big boys in the third period Thursday night. Roslovic was back down with the second unit.

The team also welcomed back power-play anchor Dustin Byfuglien on Feb. 7 in Montreal, but that hasn’t lit the expected spark in the five games that have passed since.

"We had a couple good shots (Thursday), some good looks through traffic. I don’t know, it’s just one of those things where sometimes it’s hot for five games, sometimes it cools down for a couple games," said defenceman Jacob Trouba, who was part of the top power-play unit when Byfuglien was out for more than a month and now works with Myers on the second unit.

"We’ve just gotta stay confident and consistent in what you do, just know there’s going to be ups and downs, there’s ups and downs in everything. It’s nothing to panic over."

The Jets are still sitting fourth in the NHL with a 25 per cent efficiency, but that number had been hovering around 30 per cent for much of the season. The sooner they can rediscover the magic, the better.

 

MORROW ON THE MEND: A late third-period fight has proven to be costly for defenceman Joe Morrow. The veteran blue-liner came up limping after dropping the gloves with Colorado’s Matt Calvert with just 11 seconds to play Thursday.

On Friday, the team revealed Morrow is expected to miss two or three weeks with a lower-body injury.

"It’s always tough when you see a guy go down for a little bit, but we’ve gone through it before. We have guys that can step in and step up. Hope he gets better as fast as he can and, in the meantime, we’ll try to hold the fort down," said Myers, who has been paired with Morrow lately.

Morrow has played some strong hockey recently, including scoring his first goal of the season and adding an assist in Tuesday night’s win over the New York Rangers to kick off a three-game homestand.

His injury provides an opening for Dmitry Kulikov, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury but is ready to return. Kulikov will likely take Morrow’s place on the pairing with Myers tonight.

The Jets have called up defenceman Sami Nikku from the Manitoba Moose to give them another body for tonight’s game, and likely for their three-game road swing next week to Colorado, Nevada and Arizona.

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, February 16, 2019 at 7:26 AM CST: Final

8:19 AM: Headline fixed.

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