WINNIPEG — On a day where we can be sure suspended Winnipeg defenceman Josh Morrissey will not play in Game 5, the good news out of the Jets morning skate was that previously injured Tyler Myers will.
Myers was injured in Game 3 on that awkward play with Marcus Foligno, and said Friday that the alleged “punch to his knee” by Foligno was not the cause of his injury. With that conspiracy theory put to rest, Myers’ return will blow some wind into the sails of a Jets team that has seemingly lost one defenceman after the next of late.
"When a new guy comes in, whether he’s played for you or not, you feel a little better about your game. Especially if you come off a win," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "So we come off a win without him, we know we’re out Morrissey and that’s a hole. Tyler’s a really good player here. Sure, you put a veteran guy back in your lineup, it always makes the room feel good."
Meanwhile Sami Niku, the AHL Defenceman of the Year whose Manitoba Moose open their playoffs here on Saturday afternoon against Grand Rapids, will likely re-join the Moose. Tucker Poolman is expected to play again in Game 5 for Winnipeg.
Also, Tobias Enstrom was on the ice prior to Jets practice Friday, and he is inching towards a return to the lineup — perhaps for Round 2 should the Jets advance. If the Jets close this series out Friday night, they could have five or six days off before opening Round 2 — an advantageous rest for a club whose blue line has been stretched by injury.
We asked Eric Staal this question: As a leader in Minnesota’s dressing room, does he lead more or less in a game of this magnitude?
"Hopefully more on the ice. That’s where it counts," said Staal, who won’t be making any Knute Rockne speeches prior to Friday’s game. "You can say whatever you want to say (in the dressing room), you’ve got to get out there and perform. If I play well, and other guys follow and do the same thing, we’re going to give ourselves a good chance to win.
"If I don’t play well, our season is going to be over."
There is no need for anyone to talk to the group about urgency. Not when you’re looking at an elimination game.
"It’s just going to be natural," Staal said. "We don’t have a choice: We don’t win, our season is over. And we don’t want that."
Across the way, Minnesota-born Blake Wheeler has his own spin, with his club up 3-1 in the series.
"I don’t think we approach it as a deciding game," the Jets captain said. "All season long and including this series, we’ve worried about our team, not who we’re playing. In our building, we’re going to want to try to dictate the pace tonight, try to play as fast as we can, and just stick with what has given us success both in this series and this season."
Jets goalie Steve Mason went down early in the morning skate and left the ice. His injury is unknown. We would expect a transaction at some point Friday if Mason can’t play.
Having the Moose right here in Winnipeg makes it far easier to make a call-up. They could bring in goalie Michael Hutchinson to back up Connor Hellebuyck for Game 5, and he could do the same behind prospect Eric Comrie in Game 1 of the Moose’s series against Grand Rapids on Saturday.
Said Maurice: "If (Mason) is good and right to back up then he’ll be there. If not, we’ll have to bring somebody in."