Stapleton happy to be extra man

Ted Wyman, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:20 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Tim Stapleton has been caught up in the numbers game a few times this season, but he doesn’t take it personally.

Stapleton has been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks, often sitting against the bigger, more, physical teams and drawing in against the faster skating opponents.

The speedy Winnipeg Jets centre only had 6:34 of ice time in Thursday’s win over Phoenix but he showed a lot of energy, created some scoring chances and used his legs to disrupt the Phoenix defensive scheme, while playing between fourth-line wingers Jason Jaffray and Carl Klingberg.

“Me sitting out, I don’t think it’s a personal thing, I don’t think it’s because I’m playing bad,” said Stapleton, who has two goals and seven points in 17 games this season.

“On the fourth line you are only going to play so many minutes. If I’m only going to play four, five or six minutes, I know every shift I can go as hard as I can. When you’re playing 20, sometimes it’s tough to do that. That’s what I try to do, try not to make many mistakes, try to just use my speed and bring energy.”

Stapleton, 29, has been switching off with the bigger, grittier Jaffray at times this season but both are in the lineup right now because of injuries to Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr.

“When someone’s hurt, I’m kinda the extra guy they can put in,” Stapleton said. “Every day I watch and try to learn and practise hard to get better and just wait for that opportunity.”

That attitude has earned the trust of Jets coach Claude Noel, who isn’t afraid to use his fourth-line centre on the point on the power play when the opportunity arises.

“That’s something I’ve done my whole career, in the minors and stuff,” Stapleton said. “It’s something I’m pretty comfortable with and excited to do and hopefully I keep getting the opportunity.”

LADY BYNG CANDIDATE?: Kyle Wellwood has taken just one minor penalty this year and that’s nothing unusual for the veteran forward.

Wellwood has 32 minutes in penalties in his NHL career and his high in a season is 14.

He said he prides himself on not taking penalties, using his body position to avoid getting called for hooking or holding.

“Certainly my game is not as physical as other guys and it’s about not getting your stick in there on the hands trying to strip the puck away,” Wellwood said.

“There’s a fine line, but I always lean toward caution.”

Wellwood admitted his style probably costs him points, especially when it comes to forechecking.

“Maybe it takes away three to five points over the course of the season, but in the grand scheme of things you trade it off with going to the box,” he said.

ALLEY OOP: Wellwood made a brilliant flip pass Thursday that resulted in a great scoring chance for Tanner Glass.

“It’s something that I do sometimes,” Wellwood said. “I try to get the puck myself, if I’m on a 1-on-2 and can’t skate by the guy so I’ll just throw it in the air and hope they lose it and can’t see where it’s going to drop and you end up getting it.

“It just lucked out that the timing was right and we ended up getting it. It was a good chance, it landed in a good spot where (Glass) was able to time it.”


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