WINNIPEG – For the second straight year, the Winnipeg Jets lost key players in Game’s 3 and 4 of their opening round playoff series.

The Jets were mostly healthy going into Game 1 of their series with the Colorado Avalanche and that was one reason there was so much optimism. Morgan Barron was the only member of the team that wasn’t available thanks to a knee injury he sustained on April 16 against the Seattle Kraken. The 25-year-old forward scored a career high 11 goals this season.

“He skated actually a couple days ago. It's funny, I'm walking by him and he's coming off the ice and I said, 'Morgan, how'd that go?' (makes growling sound) He was growly,” said Rick Bowness on Thursday.

“Because it didn't go as well as he had hoped. And then he came up later and, 'Bones, I'm sorry. I wanted it to feel better. It didn't feel better.' He wouldn't have played this series.”

At the end of Game 3 in Denver, defenceman Brenden Dillon was involved in a scrum after the final buzzer went off. Somehow, he suffered a deep cut on his hand that required stitches.

“I’m frustrated with myself that that’s how it (worked) out. I can’t say that I wouldn’t do it again next time, to just try and go stir things up and like I said, get a little momentum back our way,” said Dillon.

“Going down, I felt like my arm was behind the Avalanche player on the ice and as I was getting up, I thought (Josh) Manson was coming over to punch me in the face, but he was actually pointing at my hand and saying, ‘check it out.’ I saw the blood and off I went.”

Dillon didn’t play in Game 4 or 5 and Bowness said that he would play with two broken hands if he could. The good news is that there isn’t any long-term damage and that as soon as the stitches came out, Dillon could have played.

“There’s nothing you can really…ahh, if it’s just my hand I’ll be fine, I can just use the other one. No, you need both. Up and down our lineup we had guys playing with stuff. Lows (Adam Lowry) is battling through tons of things that he’ll never own up to,” said Dillon.

“And I think that’s the great thing about our sport, guys never want to use excuses. I think up and down our lineup, guys were playing through a lot. It’s unfortunate when you can’t get to the goal you wanted when you see how hard guys work.”

Bowness said that Lowry was dealing with a hand injury the whole series but there was no clarification about when the Jets captain hurt his hand.

“As I've said to you before, if you're not putting ice bags on some part of your body after the game, you're just not playing hard enough. And you're not.,” said Bowness.

“It's the other team. So that helps you grow. If you're willing to battle through those minor injuries and keep playing, that's all part of growth, where we have to get this team to.”

Last but certainly, not least. Vladislav Namestnikov suffered a fractured cheekbone when a puck hit him in the face in Game 4. He was trying to jump out of the way when Nate Schmidt let a shot go from the point, the puck deflected off a stick and struck him. The 31-year-old didn’t move for a while before getting up and skating off the ice with the help from the trainers.

“I know that there are things outside of my control. But to see a guy, it was really hard. We play a game; we know the risks when we jump on the ice. But it doesn't take away from the fact that you see a friend and a teammate and a guy that you know would go there to that spot any day of the week and trust that we're gonna get it through and not have it happen,” said Schmidt.

“But it’s tough to see him even now. And I'm just very thankful that everything so far has been good. Good is a relative term I should say. Better than what it could have been. So thankful for that.”

Going back to 2023, Winnipeg didn't have Nikolaj Ehlers until Game 5 against Vegas. They lost Josh Morrissey in Game 3 and Mark Scheifele in Game 4.