Answering the call
One of the purposes of a minor league affiliate is to develop players for when the parent club needs help. In fact, it’s the main priority.
Just 16 games into their inaugural season, there’s nothing ‘minor’ about the St. John’s IceCaps.
Having been ravaged by injuries through the season’s first six weeks, the Winnipeg Jets have relied heavily on help from the farm. Six players have been a part of the St. John’s – Winnipeg shuttle service, and all six have had a positive effect on the NHL club.
Defenceman Mark Flood, recalled on November 3rd, has helped infuse a Jets blueline ravaged by injuries. After Derek Meech and Tobias Enstrom went down with long-term injuries within the span of a week, the Jets were in need of an offensive spark from the back end. Enter Flood, who, after scoring his first career NHL goal on November 5th, has scored twice more since then, including the game-winner Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Winnipeg.
Recalled along with Flood was rugged defenceman Brett Festerling, who had been playing meaningful minutes until an injury in practice last Friday. Festerling is averaging 13:07 in ice time through five games, and has made contributions to the penalty killing unit as well.
Two more defencemen, Paul Postma and Arturs Kulda, have also seen game action with the Jets. Postma, who had a terrific camp with the Jets, is averaging 8:30 in ice time per contest while Kulda, who was recalled on Sunday, played 13:15 in his first game on Monday.
The IceCaps also lost goaltender Peter Mannino to Winnipeg for more than two weeks to provide depth when Jets netminder Chris Mason went down with an injury. Mannino played just one period but stopped all four shots he faced and nearly led the Jets to a comeback after the team was down 4-0 after two periods.
Perhaps the most significant roster move was the summoning of IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray. The 30-year-old winger was recalled on Sunday to spark a Jets team that had lost five straight (scoring just 10 goals) and the team responded with a solid 5-2 win over the Lightning. Jaffray didn’t make it onto the score sheet but his presence was felt on the ice. He provided a hit and won two-of-three faceoffs in roughly eight minutes of ice time. If the Jets continue to play like they did Monday, Jaffray may be away from St. John’s for a while.
The IceCaps, however, don’t seem to be feeling any ill effects after losing a chunk of their core. While St. John’s does not possess a player in the top-20 in league scoring (Marco Rosa’s 14 points leads the team), the team is receiving its offence from a plethora of sources. Six players have 10 points or more and just two players are on the wrong side of the plus-minus statistic. It’s that type of balance that will allow the IceCaps to be successful even after they lose key players.
For now, the IceCaps will continue to roll with what they have. And the next time Winnipeg comes calling, you can be sure there will be yet another eager IceCap ready to board that Jet.
The IceCaps next home game is Friday against the Norfolk Admirals, 7:30 at Mile One Centre. The same two teams meet again Saturday.
Catch all the action on www.stjohnsicecaps.com or 930 AM This is Newfoundland Labrador.