WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets played the Calgary Flames once this season but know what to expect in their best-of-5 series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
"It's going to be an extremely difficult matchup," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Thursday. "Calgary's deep in so many different areas and dangerous in so many different ways, so I think it's a formidable task and it should be a great all-Canadian matchup."
The Jets (37-28-6, .563 points percentage in the regular season) will be the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference and will play the Flames (36-27-7, .564), the No. 8 seed, when Phase 4 of the NHL Return to Play Plan begins at a date and hub city to be determined. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.
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The one game between the Jets and Flames this season was played outdoors, a 2-1 overtime win by Winnipeg at the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Oct. 26. They were scheduled to play two more times - March 14 and 31 at Calgary -- before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Under the Return to Play Plan, the remaining 189 regular-season games will not be completed. The 24-team format for the qualifiers will include 16 teams playing eight best-of-5 series and a round-robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the playoffs.
"I've been quoted as saying it'll be a thing of beauty and I haven't wavered from that," Cheveldayoff said. "From the standpoint of, 'Are [the games] going to be pure perfection?' No, I don't think so. I think there's going to be some wild swings that might happen one way or another, which could make it very interesting for the fans."
Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan began June 8, with small groups allowed to work out in team facilities under strict safety protocols. The majority of Jets players are expected to be in Winnipeg by Friday and will begin Phase 2 early next week.
Training camps, which are part of Phase 3, are expected to begin July 10.
The Jets won four straight games and were getting healthy when the season paused after enduring 325 man-games lost to injury. The Flames were 5-2-1 in their final eight games before the pause.
"I do think the sheer beauty of the game and having it back is something that I think everyone will initially embrace," Cheveldayoff said. "From a playing standpoint, from a coaching and managing standpoint ... with us coming back, well, when you have a chance to sit back and pause as we've done, when you can't actually partake in it, I think you really, really gain a deeper appreciation for just how much the game does mean to us."