WINNIPEG -- After last night’s heartbreaking loss to the New York Islanders in overtime, the Winnipeg Jets reconvened for practice today at MTS Centre.
But the bad luck kept coming.
Nikolaj Ehlers, who took a puck off his visor seconds before the Kyle Okposo overtime winner last night, is out indefinitely after the broken visor left cuts around the rookie’s eye, and blood in his eye chamber.
Head coach Paul Maurice says the team expects to know more in the next 24 hours.
“What we’ll learn from that is the amount, and the timeline of when we think it’ll dissipate. What’s going to be tougher for me to tell you, is he will be 100 percent shut down until it’s dissipated,” said Maurice. “We have no expectation of anything long-term, right now. But the longer we think it takes to dissipate, that’s going to extend that injury out. He won’t get out for a bike or a brisk walk, until it’s completely gone.”
Ehlers had points in four of his last five games heading into last night. It’s an injury that’s all too familiar to Maurice.
“I went through the exact same thing. That was exactly what happened to me except there was no visor, and I spent three weeks in a room listening to the radio,” he said. “The longer he’s out, the harder it is for him to come back quickly, because we can’t do anything with him.”
The next 24 hours will also give a clearer indication of the extent of Anthony Peluso’s injury. The 26-year-old left last night’s game in the first period, after driving the net and landing awkwardly. Maurice says the injury is to Peluso’s upper-body.
“The best case scenario with Anthony, we’re looking at 3-4 weeks,” Maurice said. “That would be good news because he would be able to rehab to the point that at the end of three weeks he’d be a player for us.”
Maurice went on to say that defenceman Jacob Trouba, who also missed today’s practice is probable for tomorrow’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
So with the injuries, and the eleventh set of back-to-back games of the season coming up on the weekend, positivity in the dressing room is key. Drew Stafford says the busy March schedule forces the team to have a short memory.
“It helps that we play every other day. It’s almost like you’re forced to get into that mode of preparation. Today for example, trying our best to keep it positive, keeping it light on the ice, talking, communicating,” he said. “But we’re human at the same time. It’s tough when you show up and the losses are piling up and the way the season is going, it is tough. It’s frustrating.”
Maurice is also pleased with the development he’s seen in Mark Scheifele’s game since Bryan Little’s injury has forced the 22-year-old Scheifele into the top line centre spot.
“(Scheifele) now in his third year is driving a line. His 12 goals (through December) were good. We were pretty excited that he was able to do that. Wasn’t facing the other team’s number one centre a whole lot in that role,” said Maurice, adding that Scheifele’s injuries set him back a bit this season.
After healing from a concussion, Scheifele then sustained what Maurice described as a “significant” injury in Dallas. When Scheifele returned, he still had to play through it, but now closer to 100 per cent, he’s taking on more responsibility.
“Now he’s in a different role, back playing with Blake (Wheeler), and you’re going to see his point production increase, but against the Tavares’ of the world, and all of their A players coming down the pipe,” said Maurice. “So a completely different look, (and) he’s got more help on the wings, but far more responsibility. I’m really comfortable with where he’s at.”
Next on the schedule for Scheifele and the Jets is the Montreal Canadiens, who are winless in their last three games. Winnipeg will look to not only avenge the 5-1 loss they suffered at the hands of Montreal earlier this season, but also snap a streak of six consecutive losses at MTS Centre.
“I applaud our fans for continuing to show up and show support. We have a great group here in this room, and we’re working, we’re working for it. It just hasn’t gone our way necessarily,” said Stafford. “We really do appreciate the fans showing up and giving us support, even though we’ve been on the losing end.”
Puck drop on Saturday is 6 pm CT.