Morrissey back, Tanev still out as Jets prepare for St. Louis Blues
Fans unconcerned about Winnipeg's late-season play while players expect tight series
Defenceman Josh Morrissey will draw back into the Winnipeg lineup but forward Brandon Tanev won't dress when the Jets open their first-round playoff series against St. Louis Blues at home on Wednesday.
The Jets skated Monday morning as part of their preparations for the Blues, who sported one of the best records in the National Hockey League during the latter half of the 2018-19 season.
Coach Paul Maurice says a challenge facing both clubs is they haven't played each other since the fall.
The Jets beat St. Louis in three out of the four games between the two teams, but all took place prior to the Blues firing head coach Mike Yeo and their recovery under interim replacement Craig Berube.
"We haven't played them this year. We saw them in '18. A lot of your video is 'the last time we played them, two weeks ago and this is what we saw.' So that's different for both teams. We're both dealing with the same thing," Maurice said.
St. Louis has been playing tight defensive hockey as a team and have also benefitted from the strong play of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who posted five shutouts and an excellent .925 save percentage this season.
Maurice says it would be foolish to view Binnington as a rookie.
"He's got some fabulous NHL numbers. We'd approach him as you would [Nashville goaltender] Pekka Rinne. You're not sneaking any ugly ones by him," Maurice said.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler says he, too, is expecting a tight series against the Blues and surmised goals will come from unexpected places.
"In a seven-game series, your depth typically comes out. Somebody you maybe don't talk about a lot is going to score a big goal for your team," Wheeler said.
Tanev, who was injured late in the season, won't be among Jets forwards on Wednesday, Maurice says, adding he is very pleased with the play in Tanev's place of Par Lindholm, a trade-deadline acquisition from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maurice says Morrissey has recovered from his own injury and is ready to play against St. Louis.
"They're a tough, defensive team. They're physical. They've obviously got a deep group up front," Morrissey said following practice. "They work hard and you have to work for every inch of ice you get."
Several dozen Winnipeg fans who attended the Monday-morning skate expressed confidence the Jets can break out of their late-season slump.
Other fans were confident enough to purchase tickets to Game 1 at Bell MTS Centre.
"I was at the Whiteout last year and the street party was a great feeling so I decided no matter what, I'm going to be inside the building this year," said Adrian Masse, who spent $1,500 on tickets.
"Wife wanted to go to Barbados. Pfffft! Forget it. We're going to the Jets game."
Maurice says he's counting on this sort of excitement to pump up his players.
"The emotions of playoffs are critical," he said. "The game doesn't change, but the emotions of the games do, and that's what makes then fun to watch and fun to coach and fun to play."