MATHIEU Perreault has been MIA from practice for the last few days and the Winnipeg Jets winger could be in civvies when the 2014-15 Stanley Cup tournament opens for the local heroes Thursday.
Perreault, who was injured in last Thursday's shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, was not on the ice Tuesday just prior to the team heading off to Anaheim.
"He's getting better," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "We don't want to turn it into a bigger problem than it is. He'll get back out on the ice. He may play based on how he feels after he skates. I expect him to go sooner rather than later."
Matt Halischuk worked in Perreault's spot alongside Adam Lowry and Lee Stempniak at practice and may line up there for Game 1 Thursday in Anaheim. Asked what he might expect of Halischuk if he gets the call, Maurice said:
"That's an easy one, because you expect the same thing you saw in Day 1 of training camp. He's done the exact same thing every day. He's great on the bench. He works to his complete capacity on the ice. He's on the puck, he's quick. He's a version of what we want all our players to be every night: He's a great pro, very similar to Mike Frolik in terms of what his practice is going to look like that day, and you know that you're getting that in the game."
ROOKIE/VETERAN PLAYOFF DEBUTS: The Jets have some players with Stanley Cup pedigrees — Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Frolik — but the vast majority of the squad has yet to play meaningful hockey in April.
"I'm excited," said rookie Adam Lowry. "You work so hard all year to get this opportunity to play in the playoffs and for it to be Winnipeg's first time since the team came back... the whole city is excited.
"Any time you get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup it's something you dream about. Getting the opportunity to do that in your first season is something special. There's going to be a lot emotions before the game. Probably a bit of nerves, too. But our team in here is excited for this challenge and excited to get it underway."
As much as Lowry is here in his first season, a player such as Toby Enstrom has played his entire career chasing this moment.
"It means a lot," Enstrom said. "Everybody works hard for the chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Some guys have experience, but for the whole team I think we're all excited.
"The team has come together really well, I think we've shown that. A lot of guys have played together a lot of years, and to make these playoffs means a lot. It's something we're all looking forward to."
QUOTABLE: "(Playoffs) are just a whole lot more fun. That is absolutely the truth. It's completely the truth. You know how they say coaches need to get fired to recharge their batteries? Coaches need to coach in the playoffs to recharge their batteries. This is what it's all about. It's a grind for coaches as much as players. It's seven months of pulling teeth at times, not so much with this group. Of all the groups I've had, there wasn't nearly the days you had to walk in and really grind to get them to work.
"Playoffs is the payoff. We wish the game was tonight instead of two days from now. But it's like knowing Christmas is on the 25th so the 24th is pretty good, too." — Paul Maurice.
THE OTHER SIDE: The Ducks were without goaltender John Gibson and centre Nate Thompson, both out with upper-body injuries, for the second consecutive day Tuesday. Patrick Maroon continues to work on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
"Everyone has a big smile on their face," Maroon told reporters in Anaheim. "I'm anxious to get going. We're ready for the most fun time of the year. This is what it's all about. There will be big, physical play. It'll make the fans excited. It'll be worth watching."
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