It’s rare a team makes it through the entire preseason without a few bumps and bruises, but the Jets may consider themselves lucky after narrowly escaping injury to one of their stars.
In the Jets final preseason tune up in front of a nearly sold out MTS Centre, the Jets skated to a 4-1 victory over the visiting Calgary Flames.
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Late in the third period, with the Jets leading 3-1, Flames forward Mikael Backlund barreled down on Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom. Enstrom blocked Backlund’s attempt on goal and, as the Flames forward gave pursuit after the puck, he delivered a shove to the back of Enstrom, who had turned to play the puck near the end boards. Enstrom, from the force of the push, was propelled head first into the boards behind the Jets’ goal, crumpling to the ice.
Certainly, the intent to injure Enstrom wasn’t there. You could see, almost instantly, the remorse Backlund felt. The 25-year-old forward immediately stopped pursuing the puck to check on Enstrom, a fellow Swede.
Fortunately for both Enstrom and the Jets, he was able to skate off the ice under his own power. While he did not return to the game – when the incident occurred, there was only several minutes left in the final frame – the initial reports on Enstrom were positive, with Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice saying as such.
Losing Enstrom would have been a serious blow to a team that relies on its stars as heavily as the Jets do. Seeing him skate off with little-to-no assistance signaled a great relief for Winnipeg fans; Maurice’s words allowed even further calm.
There’s no doubt the hit delivered by Backlund will be looked at by NHL discipline czar Stephane Quintal, likely resulting in a suspension for the Flames forward.
The hit aside, the game was an inspiring effort by the Jets forward line of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Evander Kane. After the Flames opened the scoring on a nifty between the legs pass by Joe Colborne that ended up on the tape of David Jones, the Jets responded with a power play goal by Wheeler.
Using his big frame in front of the goal, Wheeler deflected a Paul Postma shot from the blue line. The puck found its way past Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller, knotting the game at one.
The Jets would pull away thanks to goals early in the second and third periods. They moved ahead first on a seemingly innocuous shot by Jacob Trouba that found its way to the back of the net, and then doubled their lead on a Kane tip-in that was the result of an outstanding pass by Scheifele.
With the win, the Jets end the preseason with a record of three wins and four losses. Now, the real fun begins for Maurice and the Jets.
There are still some choices to be made by Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his staff. Those will have to shake out over the course of Sunday and the beginning of the week. Once the tough choices are made, final roster decisions will need to come down by Tuesday.
On Thursday, the Jets will be in Glendale, Ariz., to take on the newly rebranded Arizona Coyotes. Then we get to see what this Jets team can really do.