Jets coach Bowness suffers from dizziness after returning from COVID-19

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There were worried faces among Winnipeg Jets staff and members of the media Monday when head coach Rick Bowness suffered a dizzy spell while speaking on the podium during his pre-game availability.

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Bowness, 67, had to cut his media session short and was due to be visited by a doctor after feeling unwell all morning.

He was then ruled out for Monday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. The team released a statement saying Bowness would not be behind the bench, in order to rest more after his recent bout with COVID-19.

Bowness missed the Jets’ first four games of the season with symptoms of COVID-19. Associate coach Scott Arniel led the bench for him and did it again on Monday night.

Bowness returned to the bench for Saturday’s game, a 4-1 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he clearly wasn’t fully recovered.

Bowness is in his first season with the Jets after coaching with the Dallas Stars for five seasons, three of them as head coach.

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Bowness tried to get through his media availability on Monday, but seemed to have a hard time stopping at one point, mid-sentence to try to get something out of his way.

A member of the Jets public relations staff informed the media that Bowness suffered a dizzy spell.

TEAMS MUST BE SPECIAL

The Jets weren’t exactly special teams fiends in the first five games of the season and were hoping to start changing that against a stingy St. Louis team on Monday night.

Before the game, the Jets sat 23rd in the league in power play percentage (14.9 percent, 2 for 14), and were 26e shorthanded (69.2%, 9 for 13).

“We talked to the players about it this morning,” Bowness said before cutting his availability. “The power play needs to be better and the penalty kill needs to be better. It’s that simple. We are 26th and (23rd), it’s not going to cut it.

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“These numbers, goals against numbers, they all need to improve and they need to improve very, very quickly. It’s another tough week. We’re going to blink and October will be behind us. Those numbers are not not good enough and they need to improve.

The Jets will hit the road after Monday’s game, with stops in Los Angeles on Thursday, Arizona on Friday and Las Vegas on Sunday.

While five games is a small sample to really gauge their special teams’ play so far, high-scoring winger Kyle Connor said the power play needs to be cleaned up.

“I think we can be a bit faster in some scenarios,” Connor said. “I think we are a bit slowed down. The breakouts have been good, it’s just when we get into the zone, maybe a bit more shot volume, guys at net, converging a bit quicker.

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“Skating, getting into holes, opening up to another guy, not letting him hang on the wall or up there. Once they slow down outnumbered, it’s easier to adapt. They can read us more easily.

As for the penalty kill, it wasn’t horrible, but 69% isn’t enough.

Defenseman Dylan DeMelo, who leads the Jets in ice time to kill penalties, said it’s a work in progress.

“We did some good things, maybe we didn’t get results on some of the goals against,” DeMelo said. “We have new personnel coming in and doing PK, but we can do a better job of getting into the lanes, deterring shots, focusing on some clearances. Those things we can control.

“PK is very hard work in this league. The power plays are really good, lots of skill. We’ve done some good things, but I really think there’s a lot of work to be done on that.

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DeMelo acknowledged that it often takes time for a shorthanded unit to find its way early in the season.

“In pre-season you don’t play against the best units all the time, it’s kind of a fortune of a guy,” he said. “Some guys have looks that go maybe juniors or minors. We’re still learning that too, I think. We’re still learning when to push, when not to push, by trying to be tougher with their inputs and things of that nature. We have to keep working on it and fine-tuning it here.

HUNGER CONNOR

Connor, who scored a career-high 47 goals last year, was sitting on just one empty net heading into Monday’s game and he was certainly looking to start finding the net as soon as possible.

“A bit slow,” said Connor, when asked to rate his start to the season.

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“Me and the team. I don’t think we’re really happy with where we are with a lot of numbers in the first five games. Everyone, including myself, needs to improve.

“Last game I thought I started to get more chances which is great. If you have chances it’s only a matter of time. It’s been like that since I’m in the league. It was encouraging. As a group, we just have to take another step.

MAENALANEN STAY AT

It looked for a while on Monday that winger Dominic Toninato would make his season debut with the Jets, but he didn’t end up in the starting lineup.

Winger Saku Maenalanen was hit after Saturday’s game and didn’t see much time in Monday’s line rushes.

Toninato was skating on the fourth line, with David Gustafsson and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, but Bowness said it would be Maenalanen there for the game.

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Maenalanen, a 28-year-old who has played most of his career in his native Finland, has one assist in five games so far. He also used his large body (6-foot-4, 207 pounds) to make an impression. He had a few hits in the game against Toronto, which had fans clamoring for more.

SAMBERG AT WAR

Bowness said defender Dylan Samberg should be available to play on the next road trip. Samberg has only played one game this year – last Wednesday at Colorado – and has been nursing an injury since.

He wore a non-contact jersey during match day practice on Monday, but Bowness said he was very close to being a full participant and potential player.

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Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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