Lowry, Scheifele, Enstrom feel ready to get back in Jets lineup

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They say they want in, but will their bodies -- and their coach -- oblige?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2018 (1715 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They say they want in, but will their bodies — and their coach — oblige?

Three key members of Winnipeg Jets, sidelined with injuries of varying degrees of severity, participated Saturday morning at the Iceplex in the club’s full workout, including a couple of demanding five-on-five drills with some heavy-duty contact.

Jets centres Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele, along with blue-liner Toby Enstrom, could return to the lineup Sunday evening when the Jets host the Dallas Stars at 6:30 p.m.

Adam Lowry could return to the lineup Sunday evening. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

It’s the second contest of a six-game home stand for the Central Division’s second-place squad.

No decisions on each player’s status will be made until Sunday when the squad musters for the 9:30 a.m. game-day skate at the downtown rink, said head coach Paul Maurice.

Seated in his stall, surrounded by reporters, Lowry, who has missed 19 games with an upper-body injury sustained Feb. 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights, said he feels ready to make his return.

“I feel good. Obviously, it’s been a long time and it’s tough to emulate that physicality in practice, but the last couple of weeks we’ve been able to ramp it up and it’s felt a lot better, especially the last week,” Lowry said. “I’m looking forward to getting back in there, whether that’s (Sunday) or against L.A. (Tuesday). That’s kind of up for debate right now.

“Just waiting now to see how it responds. This is the first real big push with a full practice and battling and everything like that. Right now it feels good and I was real comfortable with where it’s at.”

Lowry has eight goals and six assists in 35 games — he’s been chomped three times by the injury bug this season — but he adds a crucial physical presence and defensive awareness to the roster.

Scheifele has missed five with an upper-body injury but is eager to rejoin his teammates for the push to the NHL’s post-season.

“It was good to get a practice in with the guys. It was a good step forward, for sure,” said Scheifele, following the 70-minute skate. “It’ll depend on how I feel (Sunday) when I wake up. When you finally get some contact in, you have to see how you feel the next day.”

The Kitchener, Ont., product, who just turned 25 on Friday, said guys on the ice did their part to help test out his readiness.

“It felt great. Guys were hitting me when I wasn’t expecting it. (Tyler Myers) was doing a good job of making sure I was feeling good. Big thanks to all the boys,” said Scheifele, grinning.

Scheifele previously missed a block of 16 games with a shoulder injury that occurred just after Christmas in Edmonton. He returned Feb. 9 and scored six goals and helped set up seven others in a dozen games before getting banged up again in the Big Apple.

He sustained the second injury during the first period of the Jets’ 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers on March 6 when he and linemate Blake Wheeler collided and tumbled to the ice.

Scheifele said he felt at the time like he’d only be shelved a short time.

“Initially, I knew it wasn’t the same thing. I was feeling it in different areas. I didn’t have any fears right and I was able to continue to play for a little bit and some other things didn’t feel right,” said Scheifele, who, despite missing 21 games, has 21 goals and 30 assists during the ’17-18 campaign. “It’s more precautionary than anything and just getting back to 100 per cent. As soon as I left the game in New York I knew it wasn’t going to be a long drawn-out thing.

“It sucks, you never want to miss games. Kind of a flukey collision that caused it. It’s a physical sport, that’s what we signed up for, so you’re going to get bumps and bruises.”

Enstrom has been out for the last four contests — and eight of the Jets’ last nine — with a nagging lower-body injury but is a good bet to join the fight against the Stars.

Veteran centre Matt Hendricks will miss the remainder of the regular season and least one round of the NHL playoffs with a lower-body injury.

Dallas (36-28-8) has a loose grip on the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Stars have yet to win on their current six-game road trip (0-2-2), including a 3-2 overtime loss Friday to Ottawa Senators.

Maurice said he’ll give strong consideration to slotting in the two centres against a hungry Stars squad.

“Both felt good going into practice and both got through it well. They’re knocking on the door now,” he said. “They’re feeling pretty darn strong.

“The last piece to rehab is player confidence.There’s a difference between a guy listing the things that don’t feel right but he thinks he can play, and then you’ll have a guy walk in like (Jacob Trouba) and say ‘I’m ready to play, I want to play.'”

Winnipeg snapped a three-game winless skid Thursday with a convincing 6-2 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks. Trouba played just under 15 minutes on the blue line, registering two assists, in his first game since Jan. 25. The club played 20 games without his services.

Inserting even one of either Lowry or Scheifele will necessitate some line juggling.

Maurice used centre Paul Stastny with speedy wingers Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers against Chicago, Bryan Little was up the middle with Wheeler and Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp centred Mathieu Perreault and Joel Armia, and centre Jack Roslovic skated with Brandon Tanev and Marko Dano.

If given the green light, Scheifele would slot in between Wheeler and Connor, who fired his 24th and 25 goals of the year against the Hawks. Little would then likely fall in between Perreault and Armia, while Lowry, if ready, would assume a spot on the third or fourth lines.

In that scenario, two of either Dano, Tanev or Roslovic could be the odd men out.

The Jets are 12-6-1 since the 6-5, 210-pound Lowry was forced out of the lineup. Maurice said creating space for a couple of key players trumps all.

“It’s tougher to take players out of the lineup, but when you’re putting Mark or Adam back in, they’re going in,” said Maurice. “There will be players that come out that have either played great in their last game or have played really well, and that’s the healthy competition that you always want to get to.”

Enstrom would likely take the blue-line spot currently occupied by newcomer Joe Morrow.

 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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