Record: 52 – 20 – 10
NEWARK, N.J. — A routine morning skate proved to be anything but for the Winnipeg Jets, as an unexpected injury forced them and all the team’s affiliates into a chaotic scramble for several hours Thursday.
Veteran goalie Steve Mason, fresh off a 3-0 shutout victory in his return to the net following his second concussion of the season, abruptly left the ice after only about 15 minutes Thursday. It was clear something wasn’t right.
Coach Paul Maurice confirmed it a short time later, saying Mason had suffered a lower-body injury while taking shots from his teammates. It was another unfortunate turn of events for a player who seemingly can’t buy a break this season.
"We’re not 100 per cent sure the significance of it. So he’s out," was all Maurice could offer. An update is expected today.
Mason’s encouraging start against the New York Rangers on Tuesday had provided hope he could give No. 1 goalie Connor Hellebuyck some rest down the stretch as the Jets gear up for the playoffs. Now his status is uncertain once again.
The scene quickly shifted to Milwaukee, where goalie Michael Hutchinson was practising with the Manitoba Moose for the first time since being sent down by the Jets earlier in the week to make way for Mason’s return.
Hutchinson — who made two starts with the Jets this season and won them both — was pulled from the rink and quickly booked on a flight to Newark. But delays out of Chicago made his arrival for game time iffy. So the Jets had to come up with a Plan B, inking 32-year-old New Jersey native Zane Kalemba to an emergency pro tryout.
Kalemba is an interesting story: he played one season with the Flin Flon Bombers of the SJHL before heading to Princeton, where he spent four seasons with the Tigers. After finishing up his NCAA career, Kalemba spent three years in the ECHL with stops in locales such as Elmira, Reading and Stockton. He then went to Bloomington in the Central Hockey League before playing one season with the Manchester Storm of the Elite Ice Hockey league in the United Kingdom.
Kalemba has been out of pro hockey for the past two seasons. He actually has a connection to the Jets, playing with captain Blake Wheeler on the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL in 2004-05.
Wearing No. 30, Kalemba took to the ice for the pre-game skate around the same time Hutchinson’s plane was landing. He’s one of the standby goalies each NHL city has in case of such an emergency.
Hutchinson was dressed and ready by the second period, meaning Kalemba’s NHL experience was over by the first-period intermission.
Meanwhile, the Moose had to fill the void left by Hutchinson, recalling Jamie Phillips from Jacksonville of the ECHL. Phillips had just been returned to the affiliate earlier this week when Hutchinson returned. Naturally, the Icemen will now need to find a goalie to take Phillips’ spot.
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.