WINNIPEG - Claude Noel sees no point in fretting about his team’s almost comical injury situation.
The Jets have already lost more than 150 man games to injury this season, which makes their recent 9-3-1 stretch all the more impressive.
Given that injuries are part of the game, you can appreciate what the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets is going through as his team gets set to welcome the Washington Capitals to MTS Centre on Thursday (7:35 p.m. TSN Jets, TSN 1290) for a pivotal Southeast Division match-up.
“Our roster changes so much day-to-day that you don’t know who you’ve got, so you just kind of make do with where people are,” Noel said. “There’s no sense pre-planning or anything. I’ll just wait and see.”
Although Noel wasn’t entirely sure, all signs point to forward Nik Antropov returning to the lineup against the Capitals and defenceman Ron Hainsey (who played 22:35 on Tuesday) staying in after battling through an ankle issue that kept him out of the lineup for eight games.
However, the status of forwards Alex Burmistrov (undisclosed, day-to-day), Eric Fehr (shoulder soreness, day-to-day) and defenceman Randy Jones (upper-body, day-to-day) remains up in the air.
Winger Antti Miettinen was scheduled to arrive in Winnipeg on Wednesday night but he won’t be available until at least Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.
“He hasn’t played for a couple of weeks,” said Noel. “He’s been skating, but he needs to get back into a rhythm. It will be good for him to get some practice time, get familiar and then get him comfortable and going.”
With the exception of a lopsided loss against the Detroit Red Wings, the Jets are certainly feeling good about how they’ve been playing of late — having posted wins over the Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild during the past week.
“Anytime you get down a goal and you can come back like that, it’s that much more of a confidence booster,” said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian, referring to Tuesday’s 2-1 triumph over the Wild.
At 14-12-4, the Jets find themselves in second place in the Southeast Division, one point ahead of the Capitals.
As for the opponent at hand, the Jets have earned three of four points against the Capitals in their two previous meetings this season, but since that time the Capitals fired head coach Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with Dale Hunter.
The Capitals have gone 3-4 since the switch and are sure to be in a testy mood after getting thumped 5-1 by the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
“They’re coming off a tough loss, so they’re going to be that much more motivated,” Bogosian said. “They still have guys that can put the puck in the net, so you have to be aware of who is on the ice. With a new coach and everything like that, I’m sure they’re still trying to put things into place. We understand they’re still a real good team.”
The Jets placed forward Jason Jaffray on waivers, but if he clears on Thursday, there’s no guarantee he’ll be sent to the minors because of the uncertainty surrounding Fehr, Antropov and Burmistrov.
One player who was re-assigned to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League was defenceman Arturs Kulda, who cleared waivers after playing nine games with the Jets.