It’s customary for visiting teams in the National Hockey League to heap praise on the home club. But rarely, if ever, do you hear a player outright suggest their opponent is superior, even when the standings confirm as much.

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This article was published 9/1/2019 (1269 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s customary for visiting teams in the National Hockey League to heap praise on the home club. But rarely, if ever, do you hear a player outright suggest their opponent is superior, even when the standings confirm as much.

So there were a few raised eyebrows when Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon was asked to evaluate the Winnipeg Jets, and he offered up this little nugget:

"They’re so deep. They don’t have a weakness and that’s why they went to the conference finals last year. They’re one of the best teams in the league," MacKinnon said. "We’re not as good as Winnipeg but we can beat anyone any night… they’re a proven team and it’s going to be tough for us tonight."

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With the season at the midway point and the NHL’s Feb. 25 trade deadline just around the corner, Jets head coach Paul Maurice was asked if it was time to start identifying areas in need of improvement and who might be available to fill those holes before the playoffs.

"That happens the entire year, every year. You get into a team that’s top 16 fairly early, you think you’ve got a good enough team to make the playoffs, you’re always looking for those places," Maurice said.

"What makes us unusual is that some of these players are going to look different in a month or two months. And that includes Jack Roslovic, but Kyle (Connor) as well, Patrik (Laine) as well. Their curve at this point in their career is very sharp. You’re still trying to figure out where all these young guys are going to get to, and you want to make sure there’s room for them to get to that point."

Maurice said conversations with general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff about the makeup of the team happen throughout the entire season.

"It’s not ‘Hey, we’re two weeks out, let’s start looking at where we’re at.’ You’re talking about your team, where guys can get to. Some of that would be where do I think I’m going to give guys opportunities to play?" Maurice said. "So we’ve got two things: where do we think our needs would be? What’s out there? But we have that third one that’s important: the people we have here, where can we get them to?"

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Tucker Poolman is inching closer to a return from injury, and possibly another taste of the NHL.

The 25-year-old defenceman skated in Tuesday’s practice with the Manitoba Moose and could be back in the lineup as early as this weekend, according to head coach Pascal Vincent.

Poolman has been sidelined since suffering a concussion on Nov. 23 while playing with the Moose. It’s been a case of terrible timing for the second-year pro, who almost certainly would have spent considerable time up with Jets as their blue line dealt with a number of injuries.

Instead, the call-ups have come to Moose defenders Sami Niku, Cam Schilling and Nelson Nogier.

Poolman has one goal and four assists in 13 games with the Moose this season. He had a goal and assist in 24 regular-season games with the Jets last season.

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

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.