Record: 52 – 20 – 10
NEWARK, N.J — There were no signs of panic. No "woe is us" mentality. Just business as usual for the Winnipeg Jets, despite the fact No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele was out of the lineup once again.
Scheifele missed 16 games earlier this season after suffering a shoulder injury in late December. He returned in early February, putting up six goals and seven assists in 12 games since. But he left in the second period of Tuesday’s game against the Rangers in New York with another upper-body injury after taking several big hits, including one earlier in the game in a collision with teammate Blake Wheeler.
Despite that disappointing development for the Jets, there was some reason for optimism Thursday after doctors had a chance to examine Scheifele.
"I guess as good as news as we could hope for. There’s nothing structural," head coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate. "He’s a little banged up, so we’ll list him as day-to-day. He may play on this trip, but we won’t know that until we get probably at least another 24 hours out, 48 hours out."
Maurice said the injury was different than the previous one, not linked in any way. He said they won’t rush anyone back into the lineup, so you can take the "over" on any speculation regarding Scheifele’s return date.
"There’s not really any swelling, just some spasms," Maurice said without offering further details on the injury. "With all of these, we’re erring on the side of caution. At the same time, we’re not holding a guy out when he says he’s ready to go."
You get the sense the Jets aren’t holding their breath waiting for Scheifele to return. After all, they went 11-2-3 in his absence — and they’ve since added centre Paul Stastny to the mix, while centre Adam Lowry is also expected back soon.
"Same as it’s been all year. We’ve had difficult injuries we’ve had to deal with all year. I think our team’s been resilient throughout the entire year," Wheeler said Thursday. "We’ve kind of had an everyman approach in here. Guys have had to step up when guys have been injured. It’s going to be no different. Obviously, a huge hole to fill. (Scheifele) does a ton of things for us.
"We’re going to have to have everyone step up a little bit like they did when he was out the first time, and see where that goes."
Wheeler shifted over to centre when Scheifele went down earlier this season, but Maurice elected to keep him on the wing Thursday night. Bryan Little moved into Scheifele’s spot on his line along with rookie Kyle Connor.
Maurice did raise some eyebrows in the pre-game skate Thursday night, as Matt Hendricks took that spot in line rushes. But it appears that was done just to throw the New Jersey Devils off.
Andrew Copp moved up to centre Little’s wingers in Jack Roslovic and Mathieu Perreault, who was also a game-time decision Thursday after battling a bug all day and missing the morning skate. Marko Dano would have come in had Perreault been unable to answer the bell.
"We joke all the time with Mark that we don’t need him," Copp said Thursday. "No, he’s a huge part of our team. We weathered that (last) storm really well and feel comfortable with the guys we have in this room, and obviously having (Stastny) now, with the depth there, we like where we’re at. I think that says a lot about our team and how we’re built. Kind of a next-man-up attitude."
Brandon Tanev returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury in early February, skating on a line with Hendricks and Joel Armia. That left the line of Stastny between Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers intact, and for good reason. They’ve been among the best in the NHL lately.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.