Jets-Predators Notebook: Ehlers, Chiarot react to Byfuglien’s punch

Sean Reynolds and Luke Fox get us set for Game 3 of this highly entertaining series, where the only bad thing is one of the Jets or Predators will have to go home at the end.

WINNIPEG — The video of Dustin Byfuglien celebrating a late Winnipeg Jets goal by punching his teammates in the face went viral after Game 2. He literally clocks Nikolaj Ehlers and Ben Chiarot.

Had Toronto seen the clip they may have sent Ehlers for concussion protocol.

"It was actually pretty hard. That’s just the way Buff is," said Ehlers, who was shown the clip by teammate Patrik Laine. "He was punching everyone in the face. Next time I’ll be more careful."

Actually, Ehlers did better in his only NHL scrap, back in 2016 against Colorado’s Tyson Barrie. Ironically, Chiarot’s last scrap was against another teammate — when he and Blake Wheeler went at it in a practice late in the season.

"Punching guys in the face? That doesn’t surprise me with that guy," Chiarot said of Big Buff. "You never know what to expect from him. He’s crazy, man. He does wild stuff like that all the time. That’s just him. You have to be on your toes around him. You never know what he’s going to do."

What is the craziest thing he has seen Byfuglien do?

Chiarot: "I can’t tell you."

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Speaking of Ehlers, after a 29-goal regular season, the speedy Dane is still seeking his first career playoff goal. "I’d like to think that I am saving them for later," he joked.

He and Kyle Connor, who scored 31 goals this season, represent 60 tucks in the regular season, but so far nada in the playoffs.

"I can’t speak for K.C., but everyone likes scoring goals. Everyone loves winning games," Ehlers said. "What we’re going through now is all about winning games, and playing for each other. If I can play a good game, not score, and we still win? So what? I’d rather have the win, than have one goal and lose. I’m OK with what’s going on right now."

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After a pair of 6-5 encounters during the regular season, this series broke open with a 5-4 Preds OT win in Game 2.

There was a time when coaches employed systems that guaranteed 2-1 or 3-2 hockey. But today, the style played by these two teams has caused coaches to lose control of the score, somewhat. Which is a good thing.

"I think it has, for sure," said Nashville defenceman Mattias Ekholm. "You see the young guys coming into the league, whether it’s (Connor) McDavid or (Auston) Mathews or whoever. All these defencemen who, back in the day, would stand and protect their own net and use their stick a lot? They’re getting out of the league.

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"You need to be able to move your boots — defend speed and not physicality every time. When you’re trying to hit everyone, its tough … when they’re coming full speed at you," Ekholm said. "We have a fast team that wants to play a fast brand of hockey. More goals is more fun, for sure."

Could you imagine a Bryan Marchment or Scott Stevens stepping up in the neutral zone in 2018, the way those two fearsome hitters used to do in the ‘90s? Either they’d miss completely, or careers would end.

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette has seen the sea change. Gone are the days of Jacques Lemaire’s boring trap, when forecheckers would not stray past the offensive blue line and everyone lined up in the neutral zone.

"I can tell you," Laviolette said. "We want to put the pedal down."

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Who would’ve thought super sniper Brandon Tanev would be outscoring a plug like Patrik Laine (3-2) through seven games in the Jets’ post-season?

Laine, a 44-goal man and Rocket Richard Trophy threat in the regular season, hasn’t found the back of the net since Game 2 versus Minnesota, back on April 13.

"My last game, I liked it a lot. I think I was pretty good. Our whole line, we were able to create a lot of scoring chances but just couldn’t finish," Laine said.

Laine was gifted a golden opportunity in Game 2, a clear break on Pekka Rinne, with whom he’s played a few charity tournaments in their native Finland. He hit a post so hard, our ears hurt.

"It’s frustrating because I can’t hit the net. From that kind of chance, it should always be a goal. It’s so close and nobody’s in front of me.," Laine lamented. "It takes maybe 30 seconds for me to get over it."

So you don’t think about it when you’re trying to fall asleep at night?

"Nah, I got more things to worry about. All the things that happen here, they stay here. I’m not taking them home with me."

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Tuesday marks a showdown between the NHL’s best home team and its best road squad. Including playoffs, the Jets are a remarkable 35-7-2 at Bell MTS Place, while the Predators are 27-10-7 after waking up in a hotel.

"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 treat it as business as usual," explained Predators centre Nick Bonino. "We’ve got four lines that can really go and don’t worry about matchups or anything. We just play and have had some good results."

The outdoor viewing party in downtown Winnipeg continues to expand. Expected attendance for Game 3’s party is 20,000 — up from the 15,000 capacity that was exceeded for the Jets’ series-clincher over the Wild in Round 1.

"When Patty Laine comes down and cracks that pipe from the post, we’re going to get a bounce of energy that we don’t get being on the road," coach Paul Maurice said.

"It is this building. The fans are loud. They’re wired to the game. It’s not the music, it’s not the stuff that happens on the TV timeouts that wires them up; it’s the game and the players. When we play that aggressive game and get chances, there’s more energy and it feels different on the other team’s bench. It’s just a really good home building."

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Connor Hellebuyck was asked how close he was to making a glove save on Kevin Fiala’s Game 2 double-OT winner.

"Would you believe me if I said 99 per cent?" he said. "It was practically in my glove. It just happened to roll up and over. I guess we have to put it behind us and move on. Two home games is going to be huge for us."

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