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Fists fly in Winnipeg: Wheeler and Chiarot exchange pleasantries in practice altercation

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WINNIPEG — The gloves came off at Winnipeg Jets practice on Saturday.

A small scuffle that involved a couple of Jets players ensued after a point shot was taken by Blake Wheeler during a drill. That melee turned into fists being tossed between Wheeler and Jets defensemen Ben Chiarot, with Wheeler being sent to the dressing room by coach Paul Maurice after the fight broke up.

“It’s just boys being boys,” said Chiarot, who had a small cut on his nose after practice. “Tempers get up. Intensity in practice is always a good thing and that’s something we’re trying to bring here before the playoffs. I look at it as a good thing.”

Wheeler didn’t speak to the media following being sent off. He appeared to be sporting a welt over his left eye and tossed his helmet into the Jets bench before heading down the tunnel.

The Jets own a 10-point stranglehold on the second seed in the Central Division and appear set for their first playoff appearance in three seasons.

Winnipeg notched its 100th point of the season on Friday in a 3-2 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks.

Mark Scheifele, who was in the vicinity, said he was just an innocent bystander in the ordeal.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I was just sitting in the slot, I don’t know if I had anything (to do with it.)”

Paul Maurice watched the fracas from center ice but didn’t say anything until Wheeler’s glove’s game off, at which point he yelled for the pair to stop.

“You’d like a few more of those during the year if you could,” Maurice said after practice.

When pressed as to why, Maurice spoke of keeping the intensity level high throughout the season.

“Our theory in how we practice is really short, as fast as we can, a full-contact sport,” Maurice said. “In the games, somebody gets an elbow up, somebody gets a piece of someone that happens and occasionally in practice that’s going to happen. It’s all good.”

Jets forward Adam Lowry said players were already moved on to the joking phase following the altercation.

“They might be mad at each other for 10 minutes, but you don’t expect a grudge to be held too long,” Lowry said. “I’m sure (by Sunday), they’ll be laughing about it.”

Asked if there would be any repercussions for either player, Maurice shared a joke.

“There will be no family meeting tomorrow,” he said. 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Injuries offer challenge while showing depth for the Winnipeg Jets

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WINNIPEG — The equilibrium that existed for the Winnipeg Jets has been rocked over the past few days.

First, there was the six-to-eight week injury to Mark Scheifele, the team’s second-leading scorer, and its best center. And then on Friday night, Brandon Tanev, a winger on the third line, went down in the first period and didn’t return.

He was placed on injured reserve on Saturday, week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Now, Jets fans will be thinking, why is Tanev’s injury being mentioned in the same breath as Scheifele’s? Of course, Tanev doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact that Scheifele does, on the scoresheet or otherwise, but he has played a key role on a very important line for the Jets since early November.

Since Adam Lowry returned from injury in early November, Jets coach Paul Maurice has deployed a line featuring Lowry, Tanev and Andrew Copp. On paper, its the team’s third line, but it’s played a pivotal role.

Lowry’s line with Tanev and Copp had remained untouched until Maurice’s hand was forced on Friday. Maurice has talked at length about how well that line has gelled since it was formed.

Maurice has sent out that line against the NHL’s best since it showed, early on, that it could handle those duties. And it’s had a trickle-down (and up) effect on the team’s forward contingent.

In the past, Maurice and the Jets have relied on its top two lines to handle the brunt of the shutdown work. With that third line pitching in some valuable minutes in that role, it’s freed up the other two lines to do what they do best: score.

The Jets are fourth thus far in goals-for, a testament to their talent, surely, but also their ability to ice a line that’s had a bigger impact that first thought.

With the two injuries, the Jets have had to shuffle the deck now. Mathieu Perreault, who elevated the team’s fourth line into something that resembled a formidable trio, has moved up to the second line. He’s been exceptional at making those around him better, and one of the reasons why he was kept on the fourth line despite playing well above its level.

Early indications seem favourable, even if the lineup has taken quite the jolt.

The Jets beat in the New York Islanders 4-2 on Friday night, playing without Schiefele and most of the game without Tanev. Even with the missing parts, the team seemed to click.

It’s always going to be a tough ask to trudge along without your top center. But it will be interesting to see how the Jets manage without that third line intact.

“Even with all of that movement, there’s still quite a bit of continuity,” Maurice said after Friday’s game.

That’s true, and Maurice pointed out that several of its new line combos have spent time with each other in the past, including Joel Armia playing with Copp and Lowry, which happened with regularity last year.

The Jets might also get a look at perhaps their best prospect in Jack Roslovic. The 20-year-old first-rounder in 2015 has been lighting up the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose, sitting third in AHL scoring with 15 goals and 35 points in 31 games.

Roslovic is envisioned as the heir to the center position on the team’s second line in the future and he’s certainly deserved his opportunity to get some playing time.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Report: No hearing scheduled for Kucherov

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It appears Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov will not be facing supplemental discipline for his hit on Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Toby Enstrom on Saturday night.

According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, there is no hearing scheduled for Kucherov.

Kucherov was assessed a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct during the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 Jets victory.

You can see the hit here:

Jacob Trouba jumped in and received a minor penalty for roughing and misconduct on the play.

“He gets to do that,” said Jets’ coach Paul Maurice of Trouba. “We put our gloves back on and drop the puck. There’s nothing else left. I don’t think that’s a decision. I don’t think anybody sees that and then thinks through the next 30 seconds to two minutes. It’s just on.

“Tough pill to swallow, [Toby] goes down and [Trouba] gets 12 minutes worth of penalties.”

Enstrom returned late in the game.

“It’s huge, not just to get him back on the ice in the game and preserve the win, but to know that he’s not going to be out for the next 3-4 weeks with a hit from behind like that,” said Maurice. “That could’ve just as easily been a defenseman done for the season.”

Postma returns, Myers out as Jets visit Lightning

With defenseman Tyler Myers expected to miss his first game due to an upper body injury, Paul Postma is will return to the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup against the Tampa May Lightning.

Myers was injured in Thursday’s loss to the Florida Panthers.

Jets’ coach Paul Maurice said the club expects to know more about Myers’ injury by Tuesday when he is checked out in Winnipeg.

“Some injuries take a few days before they settle down and before you can get a real good handle on where he’ll be going forward,” said Maurice per the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe.

Postma has been a healthy scratch in 27 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 8.

“Obviously it’s a tough one to go through, not only physically but mentally,” said Postma of being a scratch. “Getting that opportunity to be back in the lineup is awesome and I’m excited to be part of it.

“A big part of this game is confidence. Some days you have it, some you don’t. I have to have confidence in myself, know I’m here for a reason.”

The 26-year-old has two goals and six points to go along with a plus-2 rating while averaging 13:55 in ice time in 41 games this season.

He is expected to begin Saturday’s game paired with Mark Stuart.

Keaton Ellerby, who was recalled from the AHL on Friday, is expected to be a healthy scratch.

Winnipeg is 3-4-2 in its last nine and lost the only other meeting with Tampa Bay 4-2 on Oct. 24.

The recent slide has the Jets one point back of L.A. for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Jets could have Stuart and Enstrom back vs. Kings

There finally appears to be some positive news on the injury front for Winnipeg.

Mark Stuart and Tobias Enstrom could be back in the lineup on Saturday when the Jets visit the L.A. Kings.

Both defensemen practiced without non-contact jerseys on Friday.

“They’re getting stronger every day,” said Jets’ coach Paul Maurice. “I’m comfortable from a fitness point of view, but we’ll talk more with the trainers. Again, they’re still at that stage where they have to come back the next day and feel as good or stronger than they did the day before.”

Stuart, who has been out of the lineup since mid-December with a lower body injury, has nine points and a plus-6 rating while averaging 19:54 in ice time in 32 games this season.

“I felt good,” Stuart said after Friday’s practice. “I’ve got to prove to [the coaching staff] that I’m ready and we’ll go from there. It’s not about how long you go – it’s about how hard you’re going and how focused you are during practice. We put together a pretty good skate out there today.”

Enstrom, who has been out of the Jets’ lineup since Nov. 23, has nine points and a minus-1 rating in 22 games this season.

There could be good news up front for the Jets as well.

Evander Kane also practiced without a non-contact jersey on Friday. The 23-year-old has been out of the lineup since late December with a foot injury.

“He’s full contact. Once a guy gets to full contact, you’re saying he’s had enough healing that you can have at him,” Maurice said. “At the same time, he’s fresh off that injury. The doctors will have to tell us he’s had enough healing and that any residual pain, he can deal with – and then we have to feel that he’s had enough practice time to be an effective player.”

Kane has six goals and 15 points in 26 games this season.