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This article was published 8/2/2019 (196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — The NHL schedule makers have served up the Ottawa Senators on a platter to a team that should be hungry for redemption.
But it remains to be seen whether it will be feast, or famine, when the Winnipeg Jets take on the league’s worst squad Saturday afternoon and try to bounce-back from perhaps their most foul-tasting effort of the season.
Winnipeg held an optional practice Friday in which only a handful of players who participated in Thursday night’s ugly 5-2 loss in Montreal skated. But there was plenty of video to digest as the Jets try to snap out of a two-game winless funk against the lowly Senators.
"After that meeting, you kind of flush it out of your system and just think about what is going to make us successful," said centre Andrew Copp.
"We’ve been generally consistent, I think. That’s been something over the last two years that we’ve done a good job of. There are going to be nights here and there where we don’t have it. But over the course of 82, you’re going to have a game or two like that. It’s about how you respond that is going to be the tell-tale of how our team is."
Backup goalie Laurent Brossoit will make his 13th start of the year as the Jets kick off back-to-back matinee games on the road. They’ll fly to Buffalo following the game and face the Sabres on Sunday afternoon.
The Jets should get a boost to their lineup with the expected return of top-pairing defenceman Josh Morrissey. He missed Thursday’s game after being felled by a blocked shot early in Tuesday’s eventual 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose.
"I said after the game to Mark (Scheifele) that there is nothing worse than sitting out, especially with an injury and not being able to play. It’s something that no player likes to do. But obviously, it was a tough night for us but we’ll look forward to a big weekend here against two fast teams that we have to be ready for," Morrissey said Friday.
"We talk about it in our room and you look around the league at teams that do well, even over the entire history of the league, you don’t want to have two bad games in a row. And the old saying is that you don’t want to lose two games in a row ever, so we’ve responded well to some tough nights and to losses this year. That’s part of showing some maturity from our team and we’re going to have to do that again."
Ottawa is 20-29-5, which puts them 31st in the NHL standings. Despite a couple recent stumbles, Winnipeg is still in good shape at 34-17-3, which has them on top of the Central Division and third-overall in the league. However, the Nashville Predators have now closed to within a point.
Coach Paul Maurice said Friday was all about getting the mind, and body, back to a good place.
"We went right through it. And then you want to make that your one in 82. Everybody’s got one. You take a look around the league. Calgary had 9-1 (loss to Pittsburgh in October). Everybody’s got one. What you don’t want it to be is a trend. You want to make it exactly what that was," said Maurice.
"We’ve been pretty good at being able to get our focus back on what makes us good. We got a real good lesson from Montreal, really their game is what we’re good at, and we didn’t have it on display. And they had it on full display. I think we have a fairly clean idea of what our game identity is. So we don’t have to search for it too long. So that’s the test (Saturday)."
Dustin Byfuglien returned to action Thursday after missing 15 games with an ankle injury, and a healthy Morrissey could give the Jets their full blue-line for the first time in more than a month. However, Maurice said the status of another defenceman may be in question, without providing further details.
The Jets looked unusually slow against the Canadiens Thursday, which was a surprise given how much team speed Winnipeg has.
"Playing quick is not just how fast your feet move. It’s how fast you process things, how fast you move the puck, your anticipation, your puck support. A lot of those things (the Canadiens) did really well and we didn’t. So, you look up and down that lineup, they’ve got a bunch of little jitter bugs, for sure. But we feel like for every quick guy that they have, we’re just as quick in terms of physically moving our feet. But we didn’t play fast," said Copp.
"We didn’t think quick enough and we weren’t engaged enough in the game, we didn’t anticipate and there was no puck support. With that, talking on the ice helps with knowing where each other are and all of that. That helps the anticipation and we didn’t do that very well last night."
Ottawa may be dead last, but they do have some weapons including a pair of players pending unrestricted free agents who may be on the move prior to the trade deadline in Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. They’re also coming off a 4-0 win over Anaheim Thursday.
"They’ve got some highly skilled forwards in their top-six that are capable of putting the puck in the net at any point, for sure. (Thomas) Chabot was their All-Star and he’s been fantastic since (Erik) Karlsson was traded. He’s kind of in that role too, as an offensive guy that loves to skate," said Copp.
"It’s going to be about taking away their time and space. It’s going to be a similar type of game. Their forwards are a little differently skilled than Montreal’s, but it’s going to be a stiff test for us and we’ve got to be ready to go."
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.