Aaron Gagnon played his first game for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night, but he didn’t have to look far for a reminder of from where he had come.
With the Jets battling through a rash of injuries, they recalled Gagnon from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps earlier in the day. On paper, that implies a 3,000-kilometre trip between Newfoundland and Winnipeg. In reality, the 25-year-old centre only had to travel the same 80km distance many Big Apple commuters do. That’s because the Jets were playing in New York against the Rangers, while the IceCaps were stationed in Bridgeport, Conn., where they take on the Sound Tigers tonight.
The Caps weren’t in Bridgeport on Tuesday night, however, as they travelled en masse to Manhattan Madison Square Garden, only to watch the Rangers blank the Jets 3-0.
Gagnon, who had seven points and a plus-four rating in his last seven games for St. John’s, was recalled after the Jets placed Evander Kane on injured reserve. As well, forwards Alex Burmistrov and Tim Stapleton weren’t available to Winnipeg Tuesday because of injury.
Since Tuesday’s game is the last for the Jets before the NHL all-star break — they don’t play again until Jan. 31 — the IceCaps might get some help as they prepare to play three road games in four days, and they could use it.
With Patrice Cormier also on recall to Winnipeg, captain Jason Jaffray away from team after the death of his mother, winger Jason King injured and back in St. John’s and Marco Rosa still in the infirmary, the Atlantic Division-leaders could face the Sound Tigers with only 11 healthy forwards.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” said St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge when asked if he was expecting any reinforcements. “We have an extra defenceman, so we could dress 11 forwards and seven D.”
One of the rearguards is recent arrival Derek Meech, who has seen some action as a forward in his career.
“I’m aware of it,” said McCambridge of Meech’s abilities as a swingman, “but it isn’t something we’ve discussed with him yet.”
King, who leads the IceCaps (24-11-6) with 13 goals, was injured in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Worcester Sharks.
“Kinger’s out for a week, so there was no point in us dragging him around on the road when he could be back home with our doctors and spending time with his family,” said McCambridge, whose team plays Friday in Manchester, N.H., and Saturday in Portland, Me., before the AHL enters its own all-star break.
As for Jaffray, given the circumstances, there is no timetable for his return to the team.
“He’ll get as much time as he needs,” said McCambridge.
Gagnon’s game Tuesday might have been his first with the Jets, but it wasn’t his first NHL contest; he had played in 21 games for the Dallas Stars over the last two seasons ... There was one other announced roster move for the IceCaps Tuesday as little-used rookie defenceman Ben Chiarot was sent to the Jets’ ECHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles, where he should get the ice time he needs. Chiarot has appeared in just 14 of St. John’s first 41 games, registering a goal, an assist, a minus-five rating and 19 penalty minutes ... The IceCaps’ trip to Tuesday’s Jets-Rangers game wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing. McCambridge and IceCaps’ general manager Craig Heisinger began planning for it when the AHL schedule was first released in the summer. “We were looking for somewhere and some time when the Jets would be on the road and we would be nearby,” said McCambridge. “This was the one opportunity.” Besides the IceCaps players and coaches, the team’s training staff, director of hockey operations Brad Andrews and broadcaster Brian Rogers were also in attendance. “Even our bus driver (is here),” said McCambridge, speaking from his seat at MSG. “He has his IceCaps hat on, and he’s having a great time.”