Jets' Stuart battling hard every shift
Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mark Stuart (l) ties up New York Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky in Winnipeg Monday October 24, 2011. BRIAN DONOGH/QMI AGENCY, file
PHILADELPHIA -- Mark Stuart doesn't know any other way.
Diving in front of shots with reckless abandon helped the Winnipeg Jets defenceman get to the NHL and he's not about to change his style at this point either.
In the early stages of the season, Stuart's willingness to block shots and sacrifice his body has certainly been recognized by the Jets fans who saluted him with a standing ovation on Saturday.
"The people here in Winnipeg notice the little intricacies," said Jets goalie Chris Mason. "As a goaltender, you love those guys. Sometimes, because somebody is not an offensive player, you don't get the recognition, but stopping goals is as valuable as scoring them.
"With a guy like him, he's willing to put his body on the line every single time. That's just who he is and he can't help himself. That's just how he plays and I really respect that."
The Jets open a seven-game road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena (6:05 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN1290).
Fellow defenceman Zach Bogosian admits the fearless mentality of guys like Stuart -- who is averaging just under 18 minutes of ice time per game -- can be contagious and provide a spark.
"He's a leader on this team obviously and as my D partner, it gets me pumped up to see that he's battling hard every shift," said Bogosian. "He's a good team guy and whenever you see a guy do stuff like that, it gives the team more of a jump."
Stuart brings a lot of intangibles to the table and is viewed by many as NHL captain material somewhere down the road.
So what is it exactly that makes a good shot blocker?
"The willingness to get in front of them is first and then timing is a big part of it," said Stuart, a first round pick (21st overall) by the Boston Bruins in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. "You have to know when the guy is about to shoot. You don't want to lay down in front of it and then the guy passes it over to the backdoor."
What type of strategy is involved?
"Usually it's going to hit you if you look big," said Stuart, who has two assists in eight games this season. "I've definitely always tried to block shots, but I've gotten better at it over the years with technique and stuff like that. You get away from bad habits and you find out what works."