WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Never in the history of Winnipeg Jets 2.0 could a four-game road trip that included two wins be considered a mild disappointment.
In any other year, victories against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks sandwiched around a pair of losses to the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators would be grounds for a civic holiday, popping the corks off every champagne bottle in the house and cartwheeling down the street.
But this is not any other year. This is the year the Jets have promised their fans — and themselves — a playoff spot. The club even designed a “Rise Together” marketing campaign around it.
So when the Jets turned in a relative clunker in losing 4-0 to the Sharks on Saturday night — the first time they were shut out all year — dropping their record to 14-6-3, nobody was talking about the silver lining before a return home to face the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
“It’s disappointing,” defenseman Josh Morrissey told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I thought we played really well the last two games (2-1 over Los Angeles and 4-1 over Anaheim). We came into a tough building and played a veteran squad over there, and they took advantage of some mistakes we made. I just think it wasn’t the game we wanted. We had bigger aspirations for the end of that road trip.”
One of the healthiest teams at the quarter-season pole, the Jets have been bitten by the injury bug over the past week.
Defenseman Toby Enstrom is lost for two months with a leg ailment, and Steve Mason left after one period against the Sharks after taking a howitzer from winger Jannik Hansen between the eyes. Mason’s status wasn’t updated, but there was speculation the veteran may have a concussion.
If that is the case, the Jets have two of the best goalies in the AHL ready to fill the void. Either Michael Hutchinson (6-1-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage) or Eric Comrie (8-4-1 with a 2.30 GAA and .927 save percentage) could be called up without Winnipeg missing a beat.
The Wild (11-9-3) enter play Monday coming off a disheartening 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Minnesota got smoked in the special teams battle, giving up three power-play goals and a pair of short-handed markers.
Things clearly were going wrong when the team’s backbone, goalie Devan Dubnyk, surrendered three goals on the first eight shots he faced. He has allowed 16 goals in his past four games after posting three consecutive shutouts. For the season, Dubnyk is 9-7-2 with a 2.85 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
Prior to playing St. Louis, the Wild earned points in seven of their previous eight games (6-1-1).
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau thought his team played far below its capabilities in Missouri.
“We got to pick up our shoes and go into Winnipeg and do it against another pretty good team,” he said.
Dubnyk added, “We could probably look at a couple of specific plays that took us out of that one.”
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