April 25, 2019

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Suspension served, but virus may keep Lowry out of Jets lineup

Adam Lowry is eligible to return from a two-game suspension, but is sick and his status Friday is in doubt. (Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press files)</p>

Adam Lowry is eligible to return from a two-game suspension, but is sick and his status Friday is in doubt. (Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press files)

RALEIGH — They're hoping to soon catch playoff fever, but right now, the Winnipeg Jets are more concerned about shaking a different kind of ailment making life a bit miserable.

Coach Paul Maurice said a virus continues to plague his team, with Adam Lowry the latest player to be stricken. The shutdown centre was forced to sit the last two games due to suspension for high-sticking Nashville's Filip Forsberg last week, but is eligible to return Friday night when the Jets take on the Carolina Hurricanes.

However, Lowry missed Thursday's practice and his status remains in doubt. Maurice said Lowry woke up and wasn't feeling great.

“It started early November and it’s pretty much maintained its hold. We’ve got a bunch of guys with it and playing with it," Maurice said of the pesky bug

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RALEIGH — They're hoping to soon catch playoff fever, but right now, the Winnipeg Jets are more concerned about shaking a different kind of ailment making life a bit miserable.

Coach Paul Maurice said a virus continues to plague his team, with Adam Lowry the latest player to be stricken. The shutdown centre was forced to sit the last two games due to suspension for high-sticking Nashville's Filip Forsberg last week, but is eligible to return Friday night when the Jets take on the Carolina Hurricanes.

However, Lowry missed Thursday's practice and his status remains in doubt. Maurice said Lowry woke up and wasn't feeling great.

"It started early November and it’s pretty much maintained its hold. We’ve got a bunch of guys with it and playing with it," Maurice said of the pesky bug

Bryan Little also missed practice Thursday with an undisclosed issue, just like he was absent during Tuesday's morning skate in Tampa only to play in the game later that night. The Jets are currently carrying 14 forwards on the roster, so they're covered if Lowry and/or Little can't play.

Winnipeg is 1-1-0 so far on this four-game road trip and will be looking to get back into the win column after losing 5-2 to Tampa Bay Tuesday night. The Jets are 39-23-4, one point behind Nashville for first place in the Central Division with three games in hand.

Carolina (36-23-7) is tied with Pittsburgh for third place in the Metropolitan Division but just two points ahead of Columbus, who sit outside the playoff line. Every game is a big one these days for the Hurricanes, and the Jets will likely have their hands full regardless of their lineup.

"Similar to Tampa Bay, there’s an awful lot of speed, they’re very, very quick. And they shoot— absolutely everything goes to your net. So that quickness on those pucks to the net is important for you, and then how you move them," Maurice said.

"Where I didn’t think we excelled against Tampa was in some of our play selection. I think at times it slowed us down. We can’t do that against this team."

He wouldn't name his starting goalie but hinted backup Laurent Brossoit could get the tap on the shoulder. That would give No. 1 netminder Connor Hellebuyck a few extra days of rest after an injury scare against the Lightning.

Hellebuyck took a Nikita Kucherov slapshot to the mask, leaving it dented and his forehead bloodied. He spoke about the play for the first time Thursday, saying it's the hardest shot he's ever been hit by.

"Usually, when the puck hits me in the cage, it makes a chain link fence kind of sound, but this one hit me perfectly in the eye and it felt like I got clobbered in the face. It hurt pretty bad, like a punch. I don’t usually go down from those, but I knew I had to go back (to the dressing room) because something was wrong. I noticed I had a little bit of blood. When I opened my eyes, I saw the trainer was coming, so I knew something was wrong," said Hellebuyck.

Brossoit had to come in off the bench, and sniper Steven Stamkos promptly scored with a one-timer on the power play just 15 seconds later. Hellebuyck returned to action after about three minutes and said he didn't suffer any concussion symptoms.

Tampa scored the winning goal on Laurent Brossoit Tuesday, so he was dinged with the loss in the stats column. He will start Friday in Carolina. (Chris O'Meara /The Associated Press files)</p>

Tampa scored the winning goal on Laurent Brossoit Tuesday, so he was dinged with the loss in the stats column. He will start Friday in Carolina. (Chris O'Meara /The Associated Press files)

"I didn’t hit me like a concussion blow. I haven’t had many concussions, if any, but it didn’t really feel like my head rattled. It just felt like it got crushed. They wanted to stitch, but I told them just to glue it, it gives me a better scar and I like the scars that I get. And glue is a lot faster," he said.

With 16 games left, Hellebuyck said he's ready to play as much as needed down the stretch.

"A huge push here. We know the way that we want to play and need to play. We need to start building that confidence and chemistry in this room that we’re going to win, that we’re going to win the Cup and we’re going to go all the way. We need to start the belief system now," he said.

Brossoit was rock-solid in his last start last Friday night against Nashville, making 35 saves in a 5-3 Jets victory.

"Just got back in the win column. Obviously, we’re a team that bounces back after a loss, so we’re looking to take advantage of the rest (a full day off Wednesday) and are back to work and then be ready to play (Friday)," Brossoit said of the collective team mindset right now.

Brossoit wasn't happy he got tagged with the loss in Tuesday's game despite giving up only one goal. Hellebuyck was off the hook because Tampa scored the game-winning goal against Brossoit.

"I think it’s kind of a joke. There needs to be a clause added, whether it’s a minimum amount of minutes played or if the starter goes back in, it’s still his game. To be honest, in my opinion, it should just be that whoever starts the game, it’s their game," said Brossoit.

"Unless he comes in for an injury (and the game is tied). Then it’s a win-win. And if (the starter) comes back, good for him. If not, then it was the starter’s game to begin with. It’s nothing against (Hellebuyck) but I would want that to be the rule even if I started the game."

Maurice wasn't concerned about official stats, but admitted he was a bit worried having Brossoit come in ice-cold without the benefit of any kind of warmup to face a red-hot Lightning power play. A second goaltender injury would be disastrous.

"Then (goalie coach) Wade Flaherty’s in the net," said Maurice.

In other injury news, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien doesn't appear to be progressing as quickly as hoped from what's believed to be another ankle injury suffered on Feb. 14 against Colorado. Earlier in the week, Maurice sounded optimistic about Byfuglien joining the Jets for a skate Thursday, but that didn't happen.

"It’s — I don’t want to say plateaued — it may be great tomorrow, we’ll see. It’s just going to take some time," the coach said.

Defenceman Joe Morrow, also injured in that game, did join the Jets near the end of Thursday's practice as he works his way back. There's no timetable for his return. The other injured blue-liner, Josh Morrissey, is in Winnipeg and isn't expect to return until early April.

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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