Jets attempt to weather injury bug
JANESVILLE--Every North American Hockey League team experiences a stretch with a rash of injuries.
With a 60-game regular season that spans seven months, there’s no avoiding it.
The Janesville Jets hope they’re getting their worst stretch out of the way before the holiday break. Several of their top players have been hampered by injuries over the past month, and the result has been a 10-game stretch with just three victories.
Still, Janesville is tied atop the NAHL’s Midwest Division heading into this weekend’s home series against the Brookings Blizzard. The two teams square off at 7 p.m. today and Saturday.
“It’s been our key guys—our top players who play a lot of minutes,” Jets coach Gary Shuchuk said of the team’s injury issues. “At the same time, our young guys had to play and step up and got ice time they probably wouldn’t have got if those guys were healthy.
“It’s good for them, and for me it’s good to see what they’re about. Can they play? And they can.”
Brendan MacLaren, who ranks fifth on the team in points, and Regan Cavanagh will remain out of the lineup until after Christmas and potentially longer depending on their recovery times.
Erik Palmqvist, the team’s fourth-leading goal-scorer, missed three games earlier this month before returning last weekend. Carter Ekberg, the team’s top scoring defenseman, missed six games before returning last Saturday.
And goalie Garrett Nieto, who is 8-2 in 11 games this season, has played just once since Nov. 4.
“When you have such a small roster, you can’t have guys sitting around, you have to make sure you have the right guys around and available,” Shuchuk said.
Sam Renlund is one of the players that has benefited. In nine games played, all in November, he had two goals and six assists.
And the Jets have continued to lean on veteran players, like Jakov Novak, who had five goals and five assists in the month.
Shuchuk stressed that he believes his team continued to play well but has suffered from untimely mental lapses and penalties. He said the Jets need to be better on special teams.
“We’re still outshooting teams and outplaying teams, but then we’ll take a bad penalty and the penalty kill is hit or miss,” Shuchuk said. “And we’re still in first place. It seems like the hockey gods are trying to teach us a lesson—when we lose, the teams below us lose.
“They’re gaining ground a little bit, but they haven’t blown by us.”
After getting swept at Brookings two weeks ago, the Jets will attempt to get healthy against the Blizzard this weekend.