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Canucks’ COVID situation may lead to long break for Jets

Wheeler off with undisclosed injury

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The Winnipeg Jets could be granted their longest break of the compressed 2021 NHL regular season, owing to COVID-19 concerns involving the Vancouver Canucks.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/04/2021 (670 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets could be granted their longest break of the compressed 2021 NHL regular season, owing to COVID-19 concerns involving the Vancouver Canucks.

The Jets and Canucks are scheduled to meet Sunday and Tuesday, however, the evening contests remain very much in limbo. The league is expected to provide information on the Vancouver situation today — but precedent was set last month when the Montreal Canadiens had four games postponed during a similar mini-outbreak.

There’s a belief the Canucks — with three members of the organization on the COVID-19 protocol list — could face a mandatory isolation period and shut down for at least a week.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26), Paul Stastny (25) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (13) talk between shifts against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

If the matchups are postponed, Winnipeg would have five days off between its battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday at Bell MTS Place and a meeting Thursday with the Canadiens in Montreal.

To date, the club’s longest stretch of days off was four (Feb. 5-8). It had a pair of three-day breaks in January and one in February, with another slated for later this month (April 18-20).

On Wednesday evening, the league confirmed two players and a member of Vancouver’s coaching staff had entered the protocol. Adam Gaudette, 24, tested positive, while the other player and coach were not identified.

The Canucks’ matchup with the visiting Calgary Flames was postponed just an hour prior to the scheduled puck drop Wednesday evening. The NHL made the call in consultation with medical experts from the league, NHL Players’ Association and the two organizations.

Vancouver’s next scheduled game is Saturday against Edmonton, the opener of a seven-game road trip.

The Montreal organization went through its own recent struggles with the virus.

Montreal earned a 5-4 shootout victory over the visiting Canucks on March 20. Two days later, forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia were sidelined amidst COVID-19 concerns and, as a result, the Canadiens had four games postponed — three with the Edmonton Oilers and another against the Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg (22-13-2) fell 3-1 to the Maple Leafs (23-10-3) to slip three points back of the frontrunners in the North Division.

The Jets are still a point up the Oilers (22-14-1) and seven ahead of Montreal (15-8-9) for the fourth and final playoff spot, although the Habs have five games in hand because of their unscheduled work stoppage. The Canadiens will play their remaining 24 games in 42 days.

Winnipeg would face a scheduling squeeze down the road if the NHL postpones its two upcoming contests with the Canucks.

• • •

The Jets lost captain Blake Wheeler to an undisclosed injury in the first period against Toronto. The team isn’t practising today and will offer no updates on his condition until Friday.

The 34-year-old winger played five shifts (5:18 TOI) in the opening frame but did not come out for the start of the second period.

Wheeler was clipped by a high-stick from Pierre Engvall and skated out with the power-play unit late in the period, but he stayed behind after the intermission. The club tweeted out he was done for the night.

Head coach Paul Maurice’s didn’t have much information in his post-game meeting with the media, but noted the issue isn’t related to a virus concern.

“Just wasn’t feeling right so we wanted to be careful with it,” he said. “We’ll get it looked at and have something for you in the next couple of days. Truly, I don’t know.

“He may be back on the ice full-on the next game. It’s not COVID-related. We just wanted to be real careful with him, and he may be back and never miss a shift again. So, it’s wide open right now.”

 

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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Updated on Thursday, April 1, 2021 12:50 PM CDT: Corrects day of game to Friday

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