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This article was published 24/9/2018 (794 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Sami Niku stole the show Monday night in Calgary, each scoring a pair of goals to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-4 pre-season overtime victory over the hometown Flames.
Ehlers scored on a two-on-one-rush just 31 seconds into the extra frame to give his team the win. His second period power play tally snapped a personal 19-game drought going back to last season that included a pair of regular-season games, 15 playoff contests and the first two pre-season games this fall.
Ehlers said earlier in the day he needed to get himself going by skating and shooting more, and he certainly did that in spades on this night.
Niku, the reigning AHL defenceman of the year, showed why many believe at least the offensive side of his game is ready for the big leagues. He beat veteran goalie Mike Smith with a pair of wristers while also displaying his smooth skating and playmaking ability by jumping up into the play.
Rookie forward C.J. Suess had the other goal for the Jets. Suess, who finished his college career in spring and will provide some depth with the Manitoba Moose, continued his strong training camp and is now up to three points in three games (1G, 2A).
Laurent Brossoit, expected to be the backup to Jets No. 1 goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, made 34 saves.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba had a pair of assists for the Jets, while Josh Morrissey, Ben Chiarot, Adam Lowry, Brandon Tanev, Seth Griffith and JC Lipon had solo helpers.
Niku, 21, had a terrific first season with the Moose, scoring 16 goals and adding 38 assists in 76 regular-season games. He became only the second rookie in AHL history to be named the league’s best blue-liner. He also scored a goal in his only NHL game, a late-season call-up in Montreal.
There’s no doubt Niku is in tough to make the Jets out of training camp, with eight defenceman on one-way contracts seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart. Provided there are no injuries between now and the start of the regular season, a ticket back to the Moose seems likely. It would provide Niku more time to work on the defensive side of his game.
But he’s certainly making a compelling case for himself with a solid pre-season. He’s up to two goals and two assists in three games played.
Winnipeg is now 4-1-0 in pre-season play and wraps up that part of their schedule with back-to-back games Wednesday night against the Wild in Minnesota and at Bell MTS Place against the visiting New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice is expected to cut down to his 23-man roster on Friday.
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.