Hey, let’s hear it for the Jets


So, how about them Winnipeg Jets?

After starting the season 1-4 — prompting an irate Paul Maurice to drop an f-bomb on a reporter — the Jets have caught fire, going 4-0-1 over their last five while turning into something of a brick wall defensively.

On Saturday in New York, Ondrej Pavelec stopped all 38 shots faced in a 1-0 shootout win over the Rangers for his first shutout of the season. The next day, backup Michael Hutchinson recorded his first clean sheet of the season, a 33-save blanking of the Blackhawks in Chicago (Winnipeg won again, 1-0).

“We’ve really jelled together as a team on the road,” Hutchinson said, per Global News. “I think it shows on the ice.

“We’re really committed to team defense. It’s unfortunate we haven’t scored a lot of goals, but we’re still able to get points, which is the main thing.”

While it’s true the Jets aren’t scoring much — just 1.75 goals per game, third-fewest in the NHL — they deserve plenty of credit for marked improvements defensively. Specifically, in goal.

Pavelec was under fire for his poor play last season and acknowledged as much coming into ’14-15.

“I wasn’t happy last year with the way I played,” Pavelec said back in September, per the Winnipeg Sun. “It’s no secret.”

The 27-year-old Czech has to be pleased with how things have gone lately. Even prior to the Rangers game, Pavelec was putting forth solid performances:

–Oct. 30: stops 27 of 28 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils.

— Oct 26: stops 22 of 23 shots in a 2-1 OT win over the Avalanche.

— Oct. 21: stops 21 of 22 shots in a 3-1 win over the ‘Canes.

It goes to show how vital good goaltending can be. If Pavelec (and Hutchinson) aren’t playing this well, the header of this story is probably about Maurice being on the hot seat. Good netminding has also overshadowed the fact an issue that plagued Winnipeg last season — putting pucks in the net — is still prevalent; the Jets were a middle-of-the-road team in terms of goal production, but struggled on the power play (15.1 percent, 25th in the league) and scoring away from home (just 99 road goals last year, 19th in the NHL.)

Nevermind that now, though. The Jets are winning games and there are some positive vibes coming from Maurice as the Jets are finally playing the grinding, stifling style of play he wanted to implement.

“We’ve given up one goal in our last eight or nine periods now, 10 going back to the third period on the Island,” Maurice explained, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “Good goaltending and lots of sacrifice in front of it.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.