BUFFALO — Turns out the third time wasn’t the charm for Nic Petan. And his time with the Winnipeg Jets must be feeling a lot like Groundhog Day right now.
The rarely used forward took Sunday’s pre-game warm-up with the status of teammate Brendan Lemieux very much in question. Lemieux blocked a shot on the final shift of Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Ottawa — just a few seconds after he’d scored his ninth goal of the season — and wasn’t sure if he could play.
So Petan hit the ice at KeyBank Center as a backup plan — only to be relegated to the press box for a 20th straight game as a healthy scratch when Lemieux was able to answer the bell.
Petan was in an identical situation twice this past week. Last Tuesday, he dressed for the warm-up with Bryan Little iffy because of flu-like symptoms. And on the previous Saturday, he was the Plan B if Jack Roslovic couldn’t go after cramping up earlier in the day. Not only did Roslovic play, he scored his first career NHL hat trick.
It’s apparent the only way Petan is going to see the ice anytime soon with the Jets is due to injuries. And even that may get more difficult, with forward Nikolaj Ehlers expected to return to action within a week after missing more than a month with an upper-body injury.
Petan’s agent has previously told the Free Press a change of scenery may be the best route for his client, a fourth-year pro who just doesn’t appear to fit into Winnipeg’s long-term plans.
No doubt Petan’s experience over the past week has only reinforced those feelings, and perhaps upped the urgency.
Dmitri Kulikov was sidelined for a second straight game with an upper-body injury Sunday. But despite a history of serious injury concerns, coach Paul Maurice insists this isn’t anything to be concerned about.
"He just had a little something that needs to settle down for him to get back in the lineup," Maurice said following the 3-1 victory over Buffalo.
Kulikov’s absence has given Joe Morrow a bit of a reprieve, as he’s the one likely coming out of the lineup once everyone is healthy. Sami Niku is also on the roster and is likely headed for the Manitoba Moose once they get back up to eight defencemen. Niku has been a healthy scratch for seven straight games, and the reigning American Hockey League defenceman of the year needs to play sooner than later.
That could happen quickly, as Kulikov may be available Tuesday when the New York Rangers come to town.
Over on the other side of the rink Sunday, a familiar face to Jets fans was forced to watch from the sidelines. Zach Bogosian was a scratch against his former team after suffering an upper-body injury 24 hours earlier as the Sabres beat the Detroit Red Wings.
Bogosian has battled injuries throughout his career, although he’s managed to stay relatively healthy this season. Bogosian has two goals and 11 assists in 49 games.
Of course, Winnipeg and Buffalo will forever be linked by the big trade that sent Bogosian, Evander Kane and prospect goalie Jason Kasdorf to the Sabres. Bogosian is the only one still in Buffalo, with Kane now in San Jose and Kasdorf out of hockey.
Winnipeg still has plenty to show for the deal. Tyler Myers, Lemieux and the draft pick that turned into Roslovic all played against Buffalo Sunday. The other two pieces — Drew Stafford (New Jersey) and Joel Armia (Montreal) — are now with new teams.
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.
Updated on Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 11:10 PM CST: Edited