It was certainly playoff hockey when the Winnipeg Jets played the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The Jets lost 3-2 to the Oilers, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Both teams fought hard for the points. As I say, it was playoff hockey all the way.
As the Jets get ready to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, in this post I want to help Jets’ fans stay up-to-date on news emerging from the Jets’ organization.
Seldom-Scoring Players Hit the Scoresheet
Item One: Anthony Bitetto Scores Assists in Two Games in a Row
Seven-year veteran Anthony Bitetto scored an assist in the 3-2 loss to the Oilers. That gave him assists in two games in a row. Although that doesn’t sound like much, for Bitetto it is. Since Josh Morrissey got injured (an upper-body injury), Bitetto’s been a lineup regular. He hasn’t been much of a scorer; however, he does have his career-high in points with eight in 51 games.
Item Two: Nick Shore Scores an Assist the Oilers
Nick Shore scored an assist against the Oilers. The assist ended his 27-game point drought. Like Bitetto, Shore isn’t much of a scorer in his fourth-line role; however, he does have six points in 59 games this season. For Shore, any scoring is worth mentioning.
Item Three: Gabriel Bourque’s Assist Ends His Long Slump
Bourque scored an assist to end his 26-game point-scoring drought. It’s been a rough season for the 29-year-old Bourque, who has just six points in 51 games in his first season as a Jet.
Item Four: Logan Shaw Scores a Rare Goal
Shaw, who took the place of the injured Patrik Laine (a foot injury), scored a goal against the Oilers in only 6:06 minutes of ice time. It was Shaw’s first goal in 12 games (his last goal was on Dec. 21). He’s now scored five points in 35 games this year while averaging just under seven minutes each game.
Contributions by Top Players
Item Five: Blake Wheeler Scores an Assist
Blake Wheeler set up Kyle Connor’s go-ahead goal in the second period; however, the lead didn’t even last until the intermission. The 33-year-old winger has four goals and six assists in his last nine games and now has scored 59 points (21 scores and 38 assists) in 67 games this season.
Item Six: Kyle Connor Hits Milestone 100th Career Goal
Kyle Connor and Logan Shaw scored just 34 seconds apart to put the Jets up 2-1 during the second period. It was Connor’s 100th career goal, which he scored in just 245 games. Connor’s on a three-game point streak (three goals, one assist) and this season he’s scored a career-high 67 points in 67 games for a point-a-game pace.
Item Seven: Connor Hellebuyck Gives Up Three Goals to Oilers
Prior to playing on the road against the Oilers on Saturday, Hellebucyk had won three of his last five games. Those games include a sparkling 34-save shutout against the Washington Capitals.
If the Jets are going to make the playoffs, they’ll likely have to rely on great goaltending. Hellebuyck has arguably been the team’s best player all season long and the reason they’re still in the playoff hunt. They’ve lost a massive number of man-games to injury – especially on their defense.
Against the Oilers, Hellebuyck allowed three goals on 22 shots mainly in part because the Jets’ defense couldn’t stop the Oilers’ Big Three – Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Connor McDavid. These three, and they’re the usual suspects, scored all three goals scored against the Jets.
With the loss, the 26-year-old goalie’s record is now 27-21-5 with a goals-against-average of 2.68 GAA and a .919 save percentage in 54 games. That said, he’s been inconsistent in his last 10 games with a 5-5-0 record.
Jets’ Injury Report
The Jets have suffered a number of injuries recently. However, some players are soon to return. For example, Josh Morrissey should be ready for the team’s Tuesday game. Morrissey didn’t dress against the Oilers but is reported to be ready to play when the Sabres come to town.
Morrissey missed the last four games. But, he skated a full practice Monday and reported that he’ll return. The 24-year-old defenseman has been playing on the top-pairing and getting power-play time. In the almost 23 minutes he’s averaged (22:53 minutes per game specifically), he’s scored 29 points (11 power-play points) in 61 games.
Mark Letestu also practiced on Monday. He’s had an extended absence because of Myocarditis (a heart inflammation), and the short practice was all head coach Paul Maurice suggested Letestu could handle for now. It was his first time on the ice since his diagnosis in October. It’s one day at a time for the 35-year-old veteran center. It will be a gradual process returning Letestu into game shape. It’s a pretty serious business and we hope he has a successful return.
Patrik Laine, who’s dealing with a bruised foot, is expected to skate on Tuesday. He didn’t play against the Oilers and is listed as day-to-day. If he can’t play, it will make the Jets’ push towards the playoffs difficult. Laine has scored 26 goals and 33 points this season. If he can’t play, Mason Appleton will jump into his top-six spot. The injury isn’t serious, but the team wants the swelling to go down before he resumes regular action.
Jets’ Player Moves
C.J. Suess was demoted back to the AHL Manitoba Moose. He was an emergency call up with Laine hurt, and his move back to the Moose is a sign Laine’s injury is healing.
As well, Nelson Nogier was also reassigned to the Moose. He too was an emergency call up with the defensemen hurt.
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