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At the Rink: Penguins at Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets each will be without a key player at MTS Centre on Sunday.

Jets center Mark Scheifele has a concussion after colliding with captain Andrew Ladd at practice Saturday. The Jets placed Scheifele on injured reserve and recalled forward Adam Lowry from Manitoba of the American Hockey League on Sunday. Coach Paul Maurice said Scheifele will be out of the lineup for at least a week.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang also will not play Sunday. He briefly left the game in the third period Saturday of a 3-1 win at the Minnesota Wild after being hit by Minnesota forward Jarret Stoll. He later returned, but coach Mike Sullivan is taking a cautious approach with his defenseman.

Letang sustained an upper-body injury against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 9 and missed six games before returning at Minnesota.

"[Letang] woke up [Sunday] morning, [and] wasn't feeling great," Sullivan said. "He has not been diagnosed with anything. [Letang's] health is our No. 1 priority given the history over the [past] few weeks here. Our medical staff felt that it was in [his] best interests if we took a precautionary approach."

David Warsofsky is one option to replace Letang for the Penguins, who will try to win three games in a row for the first time since Oct. 31-Nov. 6. Pittsburgh did not have a morning skate after a late arrival following the trip from Minnesota.

Scheifele, 22, ranks fourth on the Jets with 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 34 games. His 12 goals are second to center Bryan Little. Lowry has a goal and seven assists in 31 games this season. He had four assists in a four-game AHL stint.

"This [injury] is not one [Scheifele] is coming back from unless he is 100 percent," Maurice said. "When he is at 100 percent, and the doctor says he is at 100 percent clear, then he'll be ready to play. We won't be pushing the envelope at all with this. When he steps back into uniform or a full-contact practice, it is going to be at 100 percent."

A flurry of line changes have followed with Scheifele out of the lineup. Sitting in last place in the Central Division, the Jets have lost two consecutive games and five of their past seven.

"It's not all a function of [Scheifele's] injury," Maurice said of the line changes.

Drew Stafford will replace Ladd on the first line with Little and Blake Wheeler. Ladd will take a spot on the second line with Lowry moving to center. Alexander Burmistrov will shift from third-line center to right wing.

"I think that any time you're not winning hockey games, there is going to be some change, and you're trying to find the right recipe for your group and different roles that can help your team win," Ladd said.

After a strong rookie season, Lowry has struggled in a bottom-six role on the wing. He played center with Manitoba and responded well to the Dec. 16 demotion.

"I think those four [AHL] games were good for me," Lowry said. "I was able to handle the puck and play some big minutes."

Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will start for the seventh time in the past eight games. Sullivan also confirmed that Jeff Zatkoff will start for Pittsburgh.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Conor Sheary - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Scott Wilson - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel

Kevin Porter - Matt Cullen - Eric Fehr

Olli Maatta - David Warsofsky

Brian Dumoulin - Ben Lovejoy

Trevor Daley - Ian Cole

Jeff Zatkoff

Matthew Murray

Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body), Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion), Kris Letang (undisclosed)

Scratched: Adam Clendening, Sergei Plotnikov


Drew Stafford - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Adam Lowry - Alexander Burmistrov

Chris Thorburn - Mathieu Perreault - Nikolaj Ehlers

Joel Armia - Andrew Copp - Matt Halischuk

Jacob Trouba - Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Ondrej Pavelec (knee), Mark Scheifele (concussion)

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma

Status report: Fleury, who has not played since Dec. 14, participated in an off-ice workout Sunday and will skate Monday. "He's still day-to-day at this point," Sullivan said. "He's making progress. Everything went well. It [was] probably his most positive day. The only thing that I will say, that I can say definitively, is that he is making progress, so we're excited about that."… Perreault, who had been a second-line left wing, will move into a third-line center role.

Who's hot: Cullen, Hornqvist and Perron have two-game point streaks. … Winnipeg is 4-1-0 in its past five home games. … Myers has six points (two goals, four assists) in his past four games. …Wheeler has seven assists in a four-game point streak.

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