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This article was published 24/1/2018 (1180 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — They just returned from a bye week — and are getting ready to say goodbye while taking another break. Such is life these days for the Winnipeg Jets as they navigate the quirks of an NHL schedule.
Players will part ways once again following Thursday’s game against the Ducks in Anaheim before kicking off a season-long 10-game homestand next Tuesday.
"It’s to the point that the all-star break doesn’t feel like a break anymore. It used to be, because you’d grind right to it and it was a big reset button for everybody. Now that we got four or five days off last week, this is just kind of like a long weekend when you don’t play," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday. "It’s not that big a deal. Hopefully these guys get the need to travel out of their system and they can just relax and get some rest."
So will Maurice run his bench any differently, knowing he can empty the proverbial tank with another stretch of days off on the horizon?
"No. We run the bench based on the fact the Central Division doesn’t seem to want to lose any hockey games," Maurice said.
He’s not far off. Entering play Tuesday, Colorado had won 10 straight games. Nashville had won five in a row. Dallas is 7-2-1 in its past 10. Minnesota is 6-2-2. Only St. Louis and Chicago have been anywhere near treading water.
"We’re in our playoff push now," Maurice said. "We got five days off (last week) and I think there was one point left on the table by the Central Division. So this thing’s on."
Maurice was asked if he looks at the out-of-town scoreboard every night and bangs his head on the nearest table.
"No, no, that’s not from the scoreboard. That’s only after losses," Maurice deadpanned.
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Tyler Myers and Dmitry Kulikov have formed a pretty effective partnership on the ice this season. Both are coming off injury-plagued years and give the Jets plenty of depth on the blue line.
Myers said that chemistry has extended off the ice as well.
"I think as the year’s gone on, we’ve got to know each other more and more, on and off the ice, which has helped a lot. He’s a guy who brings a lot of skill to the back end. Whenever we have a chance to talk about a play, whether it’s a game or even if we’re working on it in practice, we’re trying to get better together and it’s going pretty well," Myers said.
The two have a history going back to junior, although Myers said he’s learned a few new things about Kulikov this year.
"I’ve played against Kuli even for my rookie year and even in junior a little bit. So I knew him a little bit coming into the season. But he brings a physicality that I didn’t realize how much he had. I think he’s jelled with our group really well," he said.
As for things he’s learned off the ice?
"His English is very good. Most Russians, you have to really pay attention to what they’re saying. But he’s pretty fluent compared to a lot of guys that I’ve met," Myers said.
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Adam Lowry isn’t healing as quickly as hoped.
The Winnipeg centre missed a seventh straight game Tuesday night in San Jose with a nagging upper-body injury. And he’s likely to make it eight straight when the Jets play the Ducks on Thursday.
Lowry was initially listed as day-to-day after being a late scratch on Jan. 7. Almost 2½ weeks later, he remained in a yellow no-contact jersey during Tuesday’s morning skate.
"I don’t know if patient is the right word, but we certainly want to make sure that he feels completely confident in his injury before he goes," Maurice said.
The next phase will be getting Lowry some contact, which could come as early as practice today.
"We’re getting closer to the idea that we would wait until after the break," Maurice said of likely keeping Lowry out Thursday and hoping he’ll be ready to go following this weekend’s all-star game.
Lowry has eight goals and six assists in 33 games this season while anchoring a very effective third line for the Jets.
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The Jets are stepping up their effort to fight the stigma of mental illness.
Winnipeg will hold their sixth annual Hockey Talks day next Tuesday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. The public awareness campaign for Canadian NHL teams is designed to encourage conversations about mental health and showcase resources. Fans are encouraged to post pictures on social media that day with the hashtag #HockeyTalks.
Jets players will also be wearing Hockey Talks/Project 11 dry-fit shirts from Jan. 30 to Feb. 20, and the shirts will be sold at the Feb. 27 game against the Boston Bruins at Bell MTS Place. Players Dustin Byfuglien, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Matt Hendricks, Steve Mason, Shawn Matthias, Tucker Poolman, Brandon Tanev and Blake Wheeler have recorded videos sharing their mental-wellness perspectives, which will be posted online throughout the next few weeks.
Finally, Winnipeg will host several mental health organizations during home games starting Jan. 30, including True North Youth Foundation’s Project 11, the Anxiety Disorder Association of Manitoba, Inspire Community Outreach, Mood Disorders Association, Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Artbeat Studio & Jamie Hogaboam, Kids Help Phone and Klinic.
More information can be found at projecteleven.ca.
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.