NASHVILLE, TENN - The Winnipeg Jet’s top line may have suffered a blow in Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Nashville.
Centre Bryan Little, one of Winnipeg’s hottest scorers, was hurt in the third period, and could be seen going to the X-ray room at the Bridgestone Arena after the game.
It’s not clear what was bothering Little, although he was doubled over in pain following a scramble and whistle in the Predators zone, as the Jets tried in vain to even up what was then a 2-1 game. It appeared he was favouring his hand.
Little’s loss would be a blow to a Jets squad that’s already having trouble finding balanced scoring.
While Little scored three goals during a just-completed, three-game road trip, Winnipeg’s second line of Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov and Kyle Wellwood has gone dry in the last five games.
Meanwhile, the third line of Tanner Glass, Jim Slater and Antti Miettinen managed one goal on the trip.
If it weren’t for the newly-formed fourth line of Tim Stapleton with American League call-ups Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell — the trio contributed five goals on the trip — the Jets would be offensively starving.
NO FUN FOR FLOOD
He might have one of the toughest jobs in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room these days.
Defenceman Mark Flood practises every day, attends all the team meetings and skates in the pre-game warmups.
But when it’s game time, Flood takes off his gear and heads to the weight room while his teammates skate onto the ice.
With eight defencemen in the room, Flood is usually a healthy scratch.
So he gets his workout in, then heads up to the press box to watch the second and third periods, itching to be part of it.
“I am,” Flood said. “Especially this time of the year, when the weather’s warm and you can feel the playoffs coming on. It’s tough to watch, but I’m trying to be the best teammate I can.”
Flood has dressed for just one game in the last 10, and even in that one he got less than two minutes of ice time — not exactly a recipe for getting better.
“It’s tough,” he said. “More than anything it’s mental. When you get into the game you’ve got to be mentally ready to go, mentally sharp and into the game.”
Flood could be playing a major role with the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL, but because he caught some eyes when he did play the Jets would risk losing him to a waiver claim if they sent him down. So the 27-year-old sits and waits.
“He’s not a development guy,” head coach Claude Noel said. “You’d be concerned if he was a 21-, 22-year old. Is it an ideal situation? No. But it’s one we feel we have the cards to it, and that’s the card we play. For me it’s a lot better that we keep him here.”
Noel acknowledges the Catch-22 Flood is in.
Grant Clitsome, who’s sat out three of the last four games, too.
“You sit out, after a while you have no pace, no rhythm,” the coach said. “The games are heavy, they’re tougher, there’s more involved in them. You’re playing catch-up, so then you play cautious. And then you don’t even let your own game take hold.”
Machacek’s production — a goal and five assists in four games since he was called up from St. John’s — doesn’t come as a shock to his former junior teammate, Evander Kane.
“It’s great to see him be a contributor offensively, because I think he can,” Kane said. “He wants to be that player. And he’s really good down low, protecting the puck and finding open guys. He’s put that on display here the last couple of games.”
Don’t tell Tanner Glass the loss in Nashville basically bankrupted his team’s playoff chances.
“It’s no different today than it was yesterday,” Glass said before leaving the Music City. “We’ve got to win to keep going. There’s still a lot of games left here.”