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This article was published 26/4/2021 (385 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nikolaj Ehlers is down and out, lost for at least the final nine games of the regular season with a suspected shoulder injury. And Mark Scheifele is just down, angered by his coach's decision to bench him.
No, there's rarely a dull moment around the Winnipeg Jets, and that was certainly the case on Monday with plenty of focus on the team's top point producers.
Ehlers, 25, was shaken up in the late stages of Saturday night's 4-1 loss to Toronto. He appeared to be favouring his upper arm after a hard collision with Jake Muzzin, but he remained in the game and repeatedly mixed it up with Joe Thornton, exchanging slashes and cross-checks.
"I don’t know if I can nail it to one. He got into a bunch of different collisions. He finished the game, he’s a tough young man, but I don’t think we can pinpoint one specifically," Jets coach Paul Maurice said of what caused the injury.
"We’re confident and hopeful that he’ll be back for the start of the playoffs."
Ehlers is having a terrific season with 21 goals and 25 assists through 47 games. His spot in the lineup was filled by Kristian Vesalainen.
As for Scheifele, the 28-year-old spoke publicly for the first time since Maurice sat him for much of the second period on Saturday, the result of an extended shift and half-hearted line change that led directly to a Toronto goal.
"I understand where he's coming from. I don't agree with him benching me, but we don't have to agree on everything. He's the coach, I'm the player. We don't have to agree on everything. That's the business of sports. I'll be ready to play (Monday), and that's about it," said Scheifele, who was asked to expand on what he meant.
"You're definitely pretty pissed off. I understand where he was coming from, but like I said before I didn't agree with it. I didn't agree with it at the time it took place and the magnitude of the game. I definitely didn't agree with it. So we'll leave it at that."
Scheifele leads the team with 18 goals and 36 assists and said he plans to use this as motivation going forward. Maurice said he's not surprised Scheifele bristled at the benching based on conversations they've had.
"I would describe them as private and then necessary, constructive and over," said Maurice.
"You know, there are different kinds of decisions you make. The ones that you and your players are going to disagree on the most is if you don’t like their play in general. They’re missing checks, they’re not competing hard, it’s more kind of arbitrary I think between a coach and player. When it’s something specific to the core of your team, something you’re working on, something you’ve been talking about, they’re still not going to like it, but they will, I would think, understand it better."
The Ehlers injury and the continued absence of Adam Lowry due to a head injury suffered on Thursday against Toronto made for a complete shuffling of the deck for Monday's game against Edmonton. Scheifele was on a new-look line with Andrew Copp and Mason Appleton at his side. Pierre-Luc Dubois skated between Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler, Vesalainen played with Paul Stastny and Mathieu Perreault, and the fourth-line was Jansen Harkins with Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis.
Maurice also switched up both power-play units: Scheifele, Wheeler, Stastny, Appleton and Neal Pionk were on one, while Dubois, Connor, Copp, Perreault and Josh Morrissey were on the other.
"With (Ehlers) out it kind of opens the door to look at different pieces, with a mind and an eye on if we like this, what do you do when Nikolaj comes back. So, there’s a bunch of different things that I wanted to look at and then some things have changed," said Maurice.
As for Lowry, he skated Monday in a non-contact jersey, but there is no timeline for his return.
"He’s got to get out of the gold outfit and get back into a regular sweater and get bumping. I’m hopeful that might happen in a few days, but with all of these kind of neck and head-related things, we’re just going to be so careful with them," said Maurice.
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.