BRANDON, Fla. — Blake Wheeler was one of the Winnipeg Jets who got unclogged against the Philadelphia Flyers.
After getting bumped off the top line, the big right-winger opened the game with Tim Stapleton and Kenndal McArdle and picked up two assists before getting a late promotion as the Jets cut the bench to three lines.
And when he was reunited with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, Wheeler found the Jets captain in the slot for the game-winning goal with 66 seconds left in regulation during Thursday’s 9-8 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I don’t really think anyone is a fourth line on our team,” said Wheeler, who now has five assists in nine games this season. “Whoever is playing well is going to get the opportunity to play. That’s the way it’s set up. My outlook going into the game was to play solid, bring my game and it translated into some good scoring opportunities.”
Coming up with his first multipoint game was an encouraging sign for Wheeler, who has been generating plenty of chances.
“It didn’t matter who I played him with, he skated good, handled the puck and protected it well, got pucks to the net and he was rewarded,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “He’s been making those plays, he just got results finally.”
INJURY UPDATE: Goalie Chris Mason, who suffered a strained groin early in the third period after taking over for Ondrej Pavelec, wasn’t on the ice Friday and is officially listed as day-to-day.
Noel wasn’t sure if the Jets were going to need to recall a goalie, likely Peter Mannino, from the St. John’s IceCaps.
Mannino is 2-2 with a 2.47 goals against average, a .902 save percentage and one shutout in four games with the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.
Also on the injury front, defenceman Derek Meech suffered a lower-body injury in practice on Wednesday and didn’t accompany the Jets on this season-long seven-game trip.
Speaking of the IceCaps, they officially received centre Aaron Gagnon on Friday after he cleared waivers.
The Jets also placed winger Brett MacLean on waivers Friday. He had two assists in five games and would be sent to The Rock if he clears.
LIGHTNING STRIKES: The Lightning are 4-4-2 and coming off a 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Prior to that, the Lightning had won three consecutive games.
“We’re going through adversity, we had a five-game road trip to start the season and that’s a tough thing to do,” said Lightning winger Martin St. Louis.
Defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron currently leads the Lightning with two goals and 12 points in 10 games.