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This article was published 30/4/2018 (1150 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WHILE the Winnipeg Jets like their chances at home, the Nashville Predators demonstrated no signs of being intimidated on the road all season long.
The Predators racked up an impressive 25-9-7 record living out of hotels and getting mocked by opposing fans during the 2017-18 campaign.
Nashville is also the last squad that toppled the Jets at Bell MTS Place, earning a 6-5 win on Feb. 27. Winnipeg has won 12 straight at home since then.
The Jets and Preds collide tonight at 7 p.m. in Game 3 of their second-round NHL playoff series. Nashville evened the series 1-1 with a 5-4 double-overtime victory Sunday.
Predators forward Nick Bonino told reporters there’s no great secret to the club’s road success.
"Getting on the road is always fun as a team. You go out to dinner, there’s not really any distractions. You’re there for hockey. You get up and treated it as business as usual," said Bonino, who centres an effective trio of Austin Watgson and Colton Sissons. The line has registered nine goals and 10 assists in eight games.
Nashville upended the Colorado Avalanche in six games in Round 1.
"We kind of just roll the lines. We’ve got four lines that can really go and don’t worry about matchups or anything, we just play had have some good results," he said.
Bonino said he barely remembers the narrow victory over the Jets in late February but gets pumped up playing in the Manitoba capital.
"It’s a really fun arena to play in. They got the whiteout going. They’re loud. It’s always fun to play in front of fans like that. It’s just like Nashville, it’s a loud arena with passionate fans," he said. "We’ve been to a lot of buildings that loud, but these are two of the loudest I think in the league. They wanted the team back in Winnipeg. They got it back and they have a great team now so the fans are pumped up and ready to go."
A trio of Jets nursing injuries participated in an optional morning skate Monday morning at Bell MTS Place.
Dmitry Kulikov, out since early March with a back injury, took part in his first skate with the group and wore a yellow ‘no-contact’ jersey but likely won’t be available to the club for another couple of weeks.
Veteran forward Mathieu Perreault (upper body), injured in Game 1 of the first-round series with the Minnesota Wild, and winger Joel Armia (upper body), hurt in Game 5 of the Wild series, also skated. Perreault wore a regular jersey, while Armia sported yellow.
But getting head coach Paul Maurice to so much as hint at their status of was an exercise in futility during his press availability Monday.
"That’s a really good way to put it. I think that sums it right up. That’s probably what I would have said exactly," said Maurice, his wit coming out in full force when he was asked if Perreault would be good to go at "some point in the future?"
Most of the Jets chose to recover from the protracted contest and late-night flight home by staying off their skates today.
Jacob Trouba said it was, indeed, a day to recover, physically and mentally.
"It’s pretty much personal. Everybody’s different, I guess. You just do what you’ve got to do to be ready for (tonight), whether it’s skating or doing whatever you got to do off the ice to feel good. It’s kind of a recovery, rejuvenation kind of thing..." he said.
"You hope that there’s a pretty good reward at the end and these are the things you’ve got to go through and the days you’ve got to battle through and do what you got to do today and get ready for tomorrow."
Kyle Connor had 31 tallies, the most of any NHL rookie during the regular season. Two of those sealed overtime victories for the Jets.
Seven games into his first taste of playoff hockey, he’s yet to light the lamp. The 21-year-old winger busted toward goalie Pekka Rinne early in the first overtime period but couldn’t connect.
Was he kicking himself over the missed opportunity after Kevin Fiala ended it for Nashville?
"Yeah. You play back a couple of chances throughout the whole game that you had. At the end of the day though you kind of turn the page after. You think about it, evaluate the game, what you can do better and then after that you look to the next game," he said.
Connor has three helpers playing alongside red-hot Mark Scheifele, who has eight goals in the playoffs. But the youngster was a team-worst minus-three in Game 2.
Maurice said it’s difficult to nitpick when the trio is producing.
"I’ll fire out a bunch of clichés at you, that it’s a team-sport concept. But (we) evaluate the group almost as the line. So, Connor hasn’t scored but Mark Scheifele clearly has," he said.
Scheifele had 23 goals and 37 — exactly a point-a-game player — in 60 games during a regular season cut short by injuries.
Maurice said the Jets’ top centre is a bona fide sniper in playmaker’s clothing.
"I think if Mark got selfish in his game, and I’m not encouraging him to do it, but I think he’s a 30 to 50-goal scorer. He’s got that kind of shot. We totally leave him alone in terms of his decisions with what he does on the offensive side of the puck, but he seems to have shifted now in some of the situations to be a shooter, too," he said.
"Mark is still a young man. He’s driving an NHL team offensively right now."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).