The Winnipeg Jets are heading to warmer locales for the next week but aren’t in vacation mode.
Winnipeg (17-17-2) will play a season-high five road games in eight days, starting on Thursday in Arizona. But it’s a business trip to try to boost the club’s lowly 6-12-1 record away from home.
“Our confidence is high right now, and we want to get something rolling and keep stringing together wins,” centre Bryan Little said on Wednesday following a short practice before the team boarded the plane.
The Jets are coming off two straight home wins but haven’t yet put up three consecutive victories this season. They’ve also lost their past five road games.
The 13 points Winnipeg has earned away from home this season is half of what it had at this time last year, when its road record was 11-4-4 and 19-10-7 over all.
Little couldn’t explain the reversal of fortunes.
“Not really,” he said. “I’m not sure if it was last year or the year before, we were struggling to win at home, so I think it’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“We’re a confident team at home right now, we’re playing well at home. We’ve just got to bring that kind of style on the road for us.”
Little added the Jets can’t focus on the imbalance.
“I think you’ve almost got to stop looking at it as home and away,” said Little, who has 14 goals and 32 points. “It’s hard, but you’ve got to try to play the same way every night.
“It’s easier said than done, but we have to have that kind of confidence on the road in other teams’ rinks that we do at home.”
Joining the team on its trip to Glendale, Ariz., San Jose, Anaheim, Nashville and Dallas will be centre Mark Scheifele and goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Scheifele collided with captain Andrew Ladd in practice last Saturday and suffered a concussion and two stitches to his lip. He was put on the injured-reserve list (IR) the next day.
He practised for the first time on Wednesday in a no-contact jersey and is going through the NHL’s concussion protocol.
Head coach Paul Maurice said if Scheifele passes certain tests, he’s eligible to come off IR for Sunday’s game against the Ducks.
“He will have to get through a number of skates and then enough of a full-contact practice that, in our minds, we can say it simulates game activity,” Maurice said. “And then he has to come off that and feel right and not have any symptoms at all.
“And when that time comes, then he’ll play.”
Scheifele, who had a concussion while playing junior hockey, said he’s feeling better every day.
“When you’re sitting out and you’re watching games, you’re dying to be in the lineup, but I’m following the protocol and they’re only looking out for my best interests,” said Scheifele, who has 22 points. “I definitely trust the system and hopefully I come back soon and stronger than ever.”
Pavelec hasn’t skated since suffering a sprained knee in a 3-2 win over Arizona on Nov. 21. “We don’t have him scheduled necessarily to skate,” Maurice said. “He may, but it won’t be a practice skate or where he’d be doing drills.
“It’d just be getting back on the ice.”
He added Pavelec is “right where we had thought he’d be” in his recovery timeline.
Connor Hellebuyck was called up after Pavelec’s injury to join Michael Hutchinson, but the rookie has turned heads in compiling a 7-3-0 record.Report Typo/Error