On a night when the Winnipeg Jets lost to the worst team in the NHL, Mark Stuart was quick to accept more than his share of blame.
Stuart, one of the Jets most reliable blue-liners this season, had a tough outing by his own admission but stood in front of the assembled media afterward and showed another example of the accountability he displays on a daily basis.
In an effort to help bring the best out of Dustin Byfuglien, Stuart was paired with him and the duo ended up being on the ice for all three goals in the contest.
“It didn’t go well, but it wasn’t any fault of Dustin’s,” said Stuart, whose Jets fell 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. “I struggled and made a couple of bad decisions. Both of those goals could have been prevented. Dustin was good, but I wish I could have helped him more though.
“I’m comfortable with Dustin and I think our games complement each other. He’s up in the play quite a bit and I’m more of a defensive guy.”
On the first goal, Blue Jackets winger Ryan Johnansen double-clutched before blasting a shot past Stuart and over the blocker of Ondrej Pavelec, 53 seconds into the contest.
“It was a good job by him, he waited me out and made a nice shot, give him credit for that,” said Stuart. “I’ve got to make a block there. I’m standing in front of the goalie and I’ve got to either block it or get out of his way. It was from a bad angle and I think I screened him a bit.”
On the second goal, Stuart showed great hustle to get back on a 2-on-1 rush for the Blue Jackets but he actually skated past Johansen, who snuck a backhand past Pavelec at 4:06 of the third period for an insurance marker.
“I got back too far, I’ve got to get his stick, his body, something,” said Stuart. “I over-backchecked, I sprayed Pav (with snow), he can’t see the puck and they just pop it in.”
Late in the third, Byfuglien did a nice job keeping the puck in at the offensive blue-line and fired a pass in the slot to Stuart, who buried a short-handed marker at 16:15 of the third period.
“It was good to contribute that way, but it was too little, too late,” said Stuart, who has two goals and six points in 15 games.
Jets head coach Claude Noel noted Byfuglien and Stuart did take care of their No. 1 task, which was to shut down the Blue Jackets top unit of Jeff Carter, Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger, who were held pointless.
CALL TO FARM?: The Jets are dealing with a plethora of injuries and have no extra players on the roster.
With that in mind, might the Jets consider recalling a forward from the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League?
Former Manitoba Moose sniper Jason Jaffray might be the best candidate, especially after recording a hat trick on Saturday night against the Connecticut Whale.
Jaffray now has seven goals and 12 points in 15 games this season to sit second in team scoring for the first-place IceCaps.
Jets fourth-line winger Kenndal McArdle played four shifts for 3:45 of ice time on Saturday and sat the entire third period.
SUPPORT FOR ARNIEL: Prior to the game, Nash was asked about the early-season distraction of having head coach Scott Arniel on the hot seat.
“The one thing here is that we still believe in what Arnie is doing and what management is doing,” said Nash, who is the Blue Jackets captain. “We don’t want to see any changes.”