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Wheeler out 'indefinitely' as Jets begin five-game road trip

"The word's concussion (but) we don't have a diagnosis on that, yet." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets got some bad news before they hopped on a plane to begin a five-game road trip.

Their captain, Blake Wheeler, won't be joining them on the flight.

He was on the receiving end of an elbow from Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk on Monday.

"He started to feel a little off (Tuesday) and then (Wednesday) started not feeling great," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "The word's concussion (but) we don't have a diagnosis on that, yet, but we're going to treat it as it is because we're obviously really careful with these things."

Until they get an official diagnosis, the Jets aren't looking into what it would take for Wheeler to join the team later on the trip. Maurice assumes Wheeler would have to fly privately, but at this point, the captain's health is the main point of focus.

The road trip begins on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, who received their own bad news on the injury front. Forward Brendan Gallagher will be out at least six weeks due to a fractured thumb he suffered in Montreal's overtime victory on Monday.

Wheeler has missed just six games since the Jets relocated to Winnipeg in 2011. Since the start of that campaign, only two players have skated in more games than Wheeler's 726 - Phil Kessel at 731, and Keith Yandle at 733.

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

His absence causes a ripple effect throughout the Jets line-up. The left-handed Andrew Copp will play on his off side, where Wheeler usually plays alongside Paul Stastny and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

"I've got lots of confidence in his ability to read the game from that side of the ice. He's generated from that side of the ice, so we're going give it a run," said Maurice. "I'll leave the other line the same, in terms of Scheif's, but we might play with it a little bit on this trip."

The line rushes at practice on Wednesday looked like this:

Connor-Scheifele-Ehlers

Stastny-Dubois-Copp

Perreault-Lowry-Appleton

Harkins-Thompson-Lewis

Morrissey-Poolman

Forbort-Pionk

Stanley-DeMelo

It's a big opportunity for Jansen Harkins, who hasn't played since Feb. 19. Despite that, Maurice feels the 23-year-old has handled the daily grind very well.

"He and I talked on the ice three days ago about how unusual this year has been for Harkins, Heinola, Niku, these guys that are right on the cusp of playing - but you've stayed healthy," said Maurice. "I'm expecting him to come in with lots of legs and lots of energy. He's playing with the two right guys. It's a real direct - simple isn't the right word - but it's a very predictable game that Thompson and Lewis play. I think he's going to be good."

The Jets narrowly avoided another injury, as Mark Scheifele took a puck up high during a power play drill.

"It got me right in the throat. It definitely hurt a little bit," said Scheifele, who leads the Jets in points with 45. "But we were working on PP, so I wasn't going to stop the drill just for that. It's all good. Maybe I'll have a little bit of a bruise, but no worse for wear."

Video: PRACTICE | Connor Hellebuyck

The puck deflected off the stick of Nate Thompson, who was in aa penalty killing role at that point.

Scheifele holds no ill will toward his teammate, in fact, it's quite the opposite.

A conversation between the two in Toronto earlier in March has really helped Scheifele's face-off numbers. He's been over 50 per cent in the dot in each of the last six games.

"We worked on some things, we talked about some things, and ever since then his input and his help has helped so much," said Scheifele. "He's a league-renowned faceoff guy and he always has been. So I'm going to give him the credit. He's the one who helped me. I'm definitely happy for the advice that he gave me."

While the team is on the road, the trade deadline - set for Apr. 12 - will come and go.

Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele

Of course, the Jets made a big splash early in the season by acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois - who has eight goals and 16 points in 24 games with the Jets this season.

For whatever reason though, Scheifele's sense is this deadline feels different than in previous seasons.

"It really hasn't been talked about as much. It's kind of funky with the quarantine and all of that stuff. No one really knows what to expect," said Scheifele, who is instead focusing on the upcoming road trip, which has the Jets playing twice in Montreal, twice in Ottawa, and once in Toronto.

"We have some pretty big games coming up against some good opponents," he said. "All we've got to focus on is our game and our team and whatever happens, happens."

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