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This article was published 8/3/2020 (636 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For the first time in what feels like ages, there were no yellow jerseys on the ice at Winnipeg Jets practice.
Just over a week ago, the Jets could’ve formed a highlighter line as forwards Mark Letestu, Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry were all wearing the yellow non-contact uniforms. But at Sunday’s skate at the Iceplex, Lowry became the final member of the trio to be back in regular colours.
Perreault made his return to game action in Friday’s 4-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights and Letestu has been cleared for contact since last Monday.
"It wasn’t easy. It was hard to watch games, especially at this time of year," said Perreault, who played just over eight minutes in his first game back. "But, we stuck with it. It’s hard, but we practiced hard and worked out every day, me and (Lowry). To finally be back, it was awesome."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice made it sound like Lowry will be in the lineup for tonight’s home matchup with the Arizona Coyotes. Lowry took a blindside hit against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 19 and missed 20 straight games.
"Yeah, there’s a very strong possibility. As long as he gets through today. (He) had a pretty good skate, a good pace today. If he feels good in the morning, we’ll look at putting him back in," Maurice said.
LEAVING THE CORONAVIRUS TO THE EXPERTS
It was business as usual at Jets practice. Fans packed the rink and when the players were finished on the ice, the door to the dressing room was open to the media.
However, the next time the media knocks on the door, it’s possible that it could be locked. Reports surfaced on the weekend that the NHL will close off the locker rooms to the media for the time being and will have formal press conferences instead. But a Jets spokesperson on Sunday said nothing has been officially decided at the moment and no direction from the league has been given at this point.
Whatever the league or team decides, Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers said players are already being cautious.
"We’re not walking around giving each other handshakes. We’re talking, but we’re washing our hands, we’re not touching our face with our hands. We’re doing all that kind of stuff. There’s not much more we can do," Ehlers said. "We’re going to continue focusing on hockey and our need to win games. Whatever the league figures out, it’s not up to us."
Ehlers was asked if the virus has changed the way players interact with fans.
"It’s not just fans. It’s out there in regular life, too. Right now, it’s a matter of having not too much contact with people in general," said Ehlers. "If you don’t want this to spread, don’t touch anyone. You also don’t want to be rude about it. But I think it’s something everyone has to have in their head."
As for travelling, Maurice said things will remain the same until told otherwise.
"We’ll adhere to whatever all the smart people say we should do between the (NHLPA), the NHL and the medical authorities that they’ll be in contact with," said Maurice.
BROSSOIT STAYS READY
Connor Hellebuyck has been the Jets’ MVP this season, but he’s going to need a break at some point in the final 13 games.
Hellebuyck is coming off of an impressive 29-save performance on Friday where he helped the Jets to a 4-0 victory over Vegas and picked up his league-leading sixth shutout. He is expected to start his fifth straight game tonight. The recent schedule has allowed Hellebuyck to still get some rest as the team has had the luxury of having two days between games these past two weeks.
Brossoit’s last start came Feb. 25 in a 4-3 overtime loss to Washington and his next might not be until this weekend where the Jets play their final back-to-back (Saturday at Calgary, Sunday at Vancouver) of the season.
"You just treat practices and your off-ice work kind of as your games," said Brossoit. "You stay engaged, stay motivated, bring purpose to your days, having a plan, I mean all those little things."
Brossoit, 26, has seen his numbers dip this season. In 19 games, he’s 6-7-1 with a 3.28 GAA and a .895 save percentage. In the 2018-19 campaign, Brossoit had a record of 13-6-2 to go along with a sparkling 2.52 GAA and .925 save percentage. This season, Brossoit got off to a rocky start as he coughed up 15 goals in his first three starts, including a 7-2 thrashing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brossoit has rebounded nicely as the Jets have picked up five out of a potential six points in his last three starts He’s allowed fewer goals (six) in his final three contests than he did in the Pittsburgh game.
"At the start of the year, there were a few games that contributed to lowering my stats and then I had to wait a long time in between starts after that. For a backup goalie, it takes a long time to change your numbers. That dial moves a lot slower. I think that’s all it is," Brossoit said.
"That Pittsburgh game at the start of the year, that really hurts you... and Helley is playing out of his mind so that obviously doesn’t help the number of starts that I’ll get, but I mean, that’s good for the team."
LITTLE AND LETESTU STILL CONTRIBUTING
Bryan Little and Letestu might be out of sight, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of mind.
While they’d rather be helping their team on the ice, the veteran centres are still finding ways to contribute.
Both were only able to suit up in only seven games each this season. Little took a puck to the head in November and has been ruled out for the year. Letestu was diagnosed with a heart virus and wasn’t medically cleared to play until last week. While Letestu could be an option at some point, he will have to work tirelessly to get back into game shape.
Their names aren’t on the game sheet, but that doesn’t mean Maurice doesn’t view them as valuable pieces down the stretch.
"What makes you a good teammate doesn’t change on injury. So, (they’ve) always been very well-liked, very well respected. (They) understand the game. (They’re) real good pros. That’s around your room so you like having that around the room," Maurice said.
"And then, you can talk to those guys after the game and (ask) ‘What did you see?’ Because they sit up top and it’s a completely different, new vantage point for them. They have interesting ideas. So, we check with those guys and find out what they’re seeing. If they’re interested in jobs, because they both played centre, like chart face-offs, but more than that, get trends, get tendencies, take a look at what your guys are doing. They would be people that players in the room would go to. If a guy is struggling with his game, they’ll ask those guys ‘What did you see?’ so it’s good having those guys around."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.