The Winnipeg Jets have dealt with their fair share of injuries this season, but the news regarding one key player is positive heading into their game Thursday against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.
Forward Drew Stafford, acquired in a trade Feb. 11 that sent forward Evander Kane to the Buffalo Sabres, took part in the morning skate and will be in the lineup, coach Paul Maurice said. Stafford sustained an upper-body injury Monday in a 5-4 shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers and was listed as day-to-day.
"I'm feeling good," Stafford said in video posted by the Jets. "I'm fully prepared to pick up where I left off."
With the announcement Wednesday that forward Mathieu Perreault could miss the remainder of the regular season with a lower-body injury sustained against the Oilers, not having to find a replacement for Stafford as well is big for the Jets. It allows Dustin Byfuglien to remain a defenseman instead of having to shift back up front.
Forward Carl Klingberg was recalled from St. John's of the American Hockey League and could make his season debut on the fourth line. Klingberg scored his first NHL goal in his most recent game for Winnipeg, on April 11, 2014 against the Calgary Flames.
Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal for the Jets (30-19-10), who continue to hold the Western Conference's first wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are four points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who hold the second wild-card spot, and the San Jose Sharks.
Braden Holtby will start in goal for the Capitals (31-17-10), who return home after a successful road trip in which they won three of four games. They are one point behind the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
"It doesn't get easier," defenseman Matt Niskanen said in video posted by the Capitals. "You're playing desperate teams. Winnipeg's going to be desperate. They're in a similar situation like we are, where they're in the playoffs but they've got to keep playing well."
Here are the projected lineups:
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Michael Frolik - Mark Scheifele - Drew Stafford
Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry - TJ Galiardi
Carl Klingberg - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso
Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Scratched: Jay Harrison, Adam Pardy, Paul Postma
Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Matt Halischuk (lower body), Mathieu Perreault (lower body)
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Jay Beagle – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Scratched: Jason Chimera
Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (upper body)
Status report: Pardy, normally a defenseman, rotated with Klingberg on the fourth line and is a possibility to be in the lineup. … The Capitals don't have a seventh defenseman currently, but coach Barry Trotz said one would probably be called up for the weekend, according to the Washington Post.
Who's hot: Little has five goals and 11 points in his past eight games. Ladd has goals in consecutive games. … Ovechkin has five goals and four assists during a five-game point streak. He has 15 goals in as many games.