Jets coach Maurice glad Pavelec erred on side of caution and pulled himself

Jets hope goalie Pavelec isn't out long

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice has no problem with Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec’s decision to pull himself from a game.

Pavelec headed to the bench six minutes into the second period of Winnipeg’s 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. He didn’t return because of an undisclosed lower-body injury.

Fortunately for the Jets, Pavelec might not be gone for long.

“We’re hoping we can rehab this in a week,” Maurice said after Thursday’s practice. “Things have to go right kind of at each stage of this week, but we’re hoping it’ll be about a week.”

Pavelec made his eighth start in nine games (4-4) since being recalled from the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose on Jan. 17. Less than a minute after Winnipeg scored to cut Minnesota’s lead to 3-1, Pavelec left the ice.

Maurice said he didn’t see what happened to Pavelec but appreciated the 29-year-old’s self-evaluation.

“I didn’t see the problem on the incident. He didn’t feel it,” Maurice said. “But as a few minutes go by, it starts to stiffen up a little bit.

“It’s a veteran call. I would prefer our goalies got out right away on any of those because if they’re at all focused on any part of their body, they’re not going to be as good as they need to be. I’m glad he did because those things can just go south on you real fast, so instead of a hopeful week (of recovery) then you’re into months.”

Sophomore Connor Hellebuyck replaced Pavelec and stopped all 10 shots he faced. Hellebuyck was already slated to get the start Friday when Winnipeg (25-27-4) hosts the Chicago Blackhawks (33-17-5).

 The 23-year-old had played in 34 games before Pavelec was recalled. He last started Jan. 26 against the Blackhawks and picked up his fourth win this season against the familiar foes.

When Winnipeg recalled Pavelec for the first time since sending him to the minors after training camp, Maurice said Hellebuyck could use the extra time to work on his game and get some needed rest.

Hellebuyck, who’s 17-13-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .909 save percentage, said he focused on the finer details of his job and likes where his game is at. He also benefitted from some rest.

“You don’t even realize how mentally and physically grinding it is because every day you’re just continuing on,” said Hellebuyck, who’ll be backed up by Michael Hutchinson on Friday. “And then when you kind of recover from it, then you kind of feel yourself like, wow, this is what good feels like.”

Maurice has seen a difference in Hellebuyck since his break from the crease.

“His stance is a little different in the net, a little more aggressive, a little more confident and looks a little fresher,” Maurice said.  “He looks mentally like he’s sharp.

“He’s really moving in net. He’s back barking at guys in practice. That’s not the right word, but chirping might be. And that’s always a sign of a confident guy. He looks a little refreshed, and probably a little bit hungry.”

During practice, Maurice continued with the different defensive pairings he had tried against the Wild.

He put Dustin Byfuglien with fellow veteran Toby Enstrom instead of rookie Josh Morrissey, who was moved with Jacob Trouba. Maurice said those pairings had been on his mind for a while.

“The two young defencemen were playing very, very well so we just kept leaving it, leaving it,” Maurice said. “But we’d always kicked around the idea.

“We know Buff and Toby have played really well together.… If (Morrissey and Trouba) can build a chemistry, then you’d be hopeful they’d be good together for a while.”

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press