Gagner used to ups and downs of NHL roller-coaster


Gagner used to ups and downs of NHL roller-coaster

Sam Gagner has been through a lot of ups and downs over his 986-game NHL career.

Even through 19 games with the Jets this season, his first in Winnipeg, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster. Signed to a team-friendly one-year contract, the veteran winger was brought in to add depth to the forward group and experience to a club that needed some.

By the end of October, just weeks after the start of the regular season, the 33-year-old was being described by some as a steal of a deal.

John Froschauer / The Associated Press

Winnipeg Jets forward Sam Gagner says he’s going to do whatever he can to help the team move forward.

Following a stellar pre-season, Gagner had points in two of his first three games and was on the team’s second power-play unit. He was then elevated to the top line after an injury to Nikolaj Ehlers, where he stayed for a stretch of games.

Fast-forward to today and Gagner is in a battle to return to the lineup. He’s been a healthy scratch in the Jets last two games, with just one assist and a minus-5 in his previous four matches.

“I’m like anyone, I want to play, I want to be an everyday player,” Gagner said after Thursday’s workout. “I understand the situation. We’ve got a lot of depth and a lot of good players that are playing really well. I love playing on a team that has a chance to do some great things, so I’m going to do whatever I can to help this group move forward.”

Jets head coach Rick Bowness said earlier this week that when they signed Gagner to a deal, there were several discussions on how they might use him. Bowness admitted the original plan didn’t include as much playing time, but that Gagner surprised them with how well he was performing, making it impossible not to give him more ice.

“The power play went south a little bit the last couple of weeks, so we decided to give it a different look. That’s all,” Bowness said. “Sam has done a great job for us but the power play struggles, so we basically gave it a different look. We still need the other guys that have killed penalties. Sam hasn’t killed penalties for us this year, so it goes back to roles and what we need specific to that game.”

What, exactly, it will take for Gagner to get back into the lineup, especially if the Jets continue winning, is unclear. Until then, Gagner will maintain his supporting role, working hard at practice and being a teammate.

It’s not an easy place to be for a fierce competitor, but Gagner understands the business more than most. He’s gained a level of maturity and professionalism over his years in the NHL, understanding that things can change from one day to the next.

“Having gone through it before and then coming out the other side so many times before, it certainly helps your confidence that you can do it again,” Gagner said. “I believe in my ability and my work ethic, and I get more excited about adversity and challenges than I did when I was younger. There’s opportunity in every situation and right now it’s an opportunity for me to show I’m going to be positive and when I get the opportunity, I’m going to help the team win.”

Laine a game-time decision: Fans hoping to see Columbus Blue Jackets star forward Patrik Laine in Winnipeg might get their wish.

Laine was activated from injured reserve on Thursday and is now a game-time decision for Friday’s game against the Jets. The 24-year-old injured his ankle in a game against the New York Islanders on Nov. 12, forcing him to miss the last seven games.

His original timeline to return exceeded Friday’s tilt against the Jets, Laine’s former team, but that has all changed since he’s been cleared to play.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re going to Buffalo, I’d still want to play,” Laine said. “It doesn’t matter where it is, who we’re playing against, I still want to play.”

Laine has two goals and two assists in eight games this year.

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Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

Credit: Gagner used to ups and downs of NHL roller-coaster