March 20, 2019

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Ehlers will be on the ice for the Jets in Vegas after all

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)</p>

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

LAS VEGAS -- Nikolaj Ehlers just needed another 24 hours to convince his bosses he was ready to return to the Winnipeg Jets lineup.

The speedy winger will suit up tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena after a 20-game absence. He was out since Jan. 4 with an upper-body injury, believed to be either a problem with his wrist or shoulder.

"Like I said (Thursday) I feel 100 per cent, I feel good to go, we talked and it worked out," said Ehlers, after the club's 30-minute morning skate.

Head coach Paul Maurice initially ruled Ehlers out after the Jets skated Thursday.

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LAS VEGAS — Nikolaj Ehlers just needed another 24 hours to convince his bosses he was ready to return to the Winnipeg Jets lineup.

The speedy winger will suit up tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena after a 20-game absence. He was out since Jan. 4 with an upper-body injury, believed to be either a problem with his wrist or shoulder.

"Like I said (Thursday) I feel 100 per cent, I feel good to go, we talked and it worked out," said Ehlers, after the club's 30-minute morning skate.

Head coach Paul Maurice initially ruled Ehlers out after the Jets skated Thursday.

Maurice wouldn't divulge where Ehlers slots in up front, and refused to indicate which forward comes out of the lineup. Ehlers played coy on the identity of his linemates, although he was involved in a short on-ice scrum with associate coach Jamie Kompon and a pair of veterans, centre Bryan Little and winger Mathieu Perreault

"I'm just trying to get back into the game now. I gotta try and keep it simple in the beginning and work by way back to game action. And guys like these two can make that easy for me," he said.

"It's seven weeks today. That's definitely the longest I've gone (not playing). I've been working out for seven weeks now, I've been skating for three (weeks), I think, so my legs feel great, my body feels great, head feels great. It's just a matter of going out there, keeping it simple and use my legs as much as I can and get the speed into my game again."

The Jets have been bumped out of the Central Division penthouse suite but can toss their bags right back in with an win over in Vegas. Game time is 9 p.m. CT.

No.1 goalie Connor Hellebuyck minds the crease, his 47th start of the 2018-19 season.

Winnipeg occupied top spot for more than three weeks, but Nashville sneaked past the visiting L.A. Kings 2-1 on Thursday night to vault the Predators (36-22-5) into first place, one point ahead of the Jets (36-20-4). Winnipeg still has three games in hand.

The Jets, riding a three-game winless skid, have yet to hit the jackpot in Sin City, losing all three games last season including a pair of games to the Golden Knights in the Western Conference final.

Winnipeg took over the Cental lead Jan. 29 after posting a 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. But the club is just 3-4-2 in the month of February.

Maurice said the club stayed patient with Ehlers' recovery, even though his speed and offensive instincts were sorely missed, especially during a recent stretch of inconsisent play. Winnipeg stumbled badly in a 7-1 loss in Denver to the Colorado Avalanche two nights ago to kick off a three-game southern road trip.

"He's been grinding me for a week," he said, smiling. "But we wanted to make sure that he was right. It's an upper-body injury so he's been getting skated for three weeks. The conditioning part wasn't a concern and he got through practice (Thursday) real strong.

"He was shooting it lights out today. He's at 100 per cent. He's ready to go."

A handful of players — defencemen Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, and centre Adam Lowry — did not participate but will suit up tonight.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant 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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