|Byfuglien, Jets look to reel in key win vs. Hurricanes|
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- After doing some seriously big game fishing on the West Coast earlier this week, the Winnipeg Jets are hoping to quell a natural disaster when they return home to the Bell MTS Centre on Saturday.
The Jets reeled off their second straight road win, a 4-2 decision over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, but it wasn't their the ice that was getting most of the attention. Instead, it was the picture of defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and forward Matt Hendricks -- both of whom are out with injuries -- posing waist-deep in the Fraser River with their prize catch on Tuesday, an approximately 10-foot, 600-pound sturgeon that would have appeared right at home in any Jurassic Park movie.
Coach Paul Maurice wasn't alarmed by the shot -- which went viral, naturally -- and said the activity was team-approved for Byfuglien, who has missed two games with a lower-body injury. Byfuglien is possible to return for Saturday's game against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.
"He wasn't bull riding. He was fishing," Maurice told a pre-game media scrum on Wednesday after being asked if he was worried his star defenseman could have injured himself. "He didn't have to wrestle it. We have him a hook and the line."
If nothing else, the Jets' two road wins, which evened their record at 2-2-0, quelled speculation -- temporarily at least -- that Maurice's job was on the line. From management down through the lineup, the franchise has made a big deal about its commitment to making the playoffs this year.
Maurice can thank Connor Hellebuyck for lowering the temperature on his hot seat. The Jets backup goalie has won both his starts while the goals-against average of free agent acquisition Steve Mason has gone to the moon in two losses.
"We're grinding teams down. We're getting pucks deep and we're grinding on their (defense)," the 24-year-old told the Winnipeg Free Press. "We're being simple when we need to be simple and then when we have a chance our skill comes out. You can't argue we have a lot of skill on this team, but knowing when to use it is key and that's what we've been doing lately."
The Hurricanes come to town with three full days of rest following a 2-1 overtime loss at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, a game that very easily could have been a win if they had a little finish. Carolina fired six shots on net during a 4-on-3 power play in the extra frame but couldn't solve defending Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
"You need one there," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters told The News & Observer. "You need one there or on the three-on-one. Those were good opportunities to finish."
The game was notable if for no other reason than it was witnessed by a crowd of just 7,892, a drop of more than 10,000 from their home opener against the Minnesota Wild a few days earlier. The team hadn't drawn less than 8,000 in nearly 17 years, reigniting online chatter of whether Raleigh can sustain a team and which cities would be revving up their relocation bids.
There's no question both teams should have been using their off days to work on their specialty teams. The Hurricanes come into the contest with the 20th-ranked power play at 12.5 percent while the Jets are plodding along in 24th place at 11.8 percent.
The Hurricanes' penalty killing is better at 83.3 percent, good for 12th overall, while the Jets are 28th with 70.6 percent.