Mark Scheifele

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Injuries offer challenge while showing depth for the Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG — The equilibrium that existed for the Winnipeg Jets has been rocked over the past few days.

First, there was the six-to-eight week injury to Mark Scheifele, the team’s second-leading scorer, and its best center. And then on Friday night, Brandon Tanev, a winger on the third line, went down in the first period and didn’t return.

He was placed on injured reserve on Saturday, week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Now, Jets fans will be thinking, why is Tanev’s injury being mentioned in the same breath as Scheifele’s? Of course, Tanev doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact that Scheifele does, on the scoresheet or otherwise, but he has played a key role on a very important line for the Jets since early November.

Since Adam Lowry returned from injury in early November, Jets coach Paul Maurice has deployed a line featuring Lowry, Tanev and Andrew Copp. On paper, its the team’s third line, but it’s played a pivotal role.

Lowry’s line with Tanev and Copp had remained untouched until Maurice’s hand was forced on Friday. Maurice has talked at length about how well that line has gelled since it was formed.

Maurice has sent out that line against the NHL’s best since it showed, early on, that it could handle those duties. And it’s had a trickle-down (and up) effect on the team’s forward contingent.

In the past, Maurice and the Jets have relied on its top two lines to handle the brunt of the shutdown work. With that third line pitching in some valuable minutes in that role, it’s freed up the other two lines to do what they do best: score.

The Jets are fourth thus far in goals-for, a testament to their talent, surely, but also their ability to ice a line that’s had a bigger impact that first thought.

With the two injuries, the Jets have had to shuffle the deck now. Mathieu Perreault, who elevated the team’s fourth line into something that resembled a formidable trio, has moved up to the second line. He’s been exceptional at making those around him better, and one of the reasons why he was kept on the fourth line despite playing well above its level.

Early indications seem favourable, even if the lineup has taken quite the jolt.

The Jets beat in the New York Islanders 4-2 on Friday night, playing without Schiefele and most of the game without Tanev. Even with the missing parts, the team seemed to click.

It’s always going to be a tough ask to trudge along without your top center. But it will be interesting to see how the Jets manage without that third line intact.

“Even with all of that movement, there’s still quite a bit of continuity,” Maurice said after Friday’s game.

That’s true, and Maurice pointed out that several of its new line combos have spent time with each other in the past, including Joel Armia playing with Copp and Lowry, which happened with regularity last year.

The Jets might also get a look at perhaps their best prospect in Jack Roslovic. The 20-year-old first-rounder in 2015 has been lighting up the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose, sitting third in AHL scoring with 15 goals and 35 points in 31 games.

Roslovic is envisioned as the heir to the center position on the team’s second line in the future and he’s certainly deserved his opportunity to get some playing time.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Wheeler helps Jets; Keller keeps scoring

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Player of the Night: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets beat the Dallas Stars for the second time in less than a week with a 4-1 win on Monday. The captain was involved in all four goals with four primary assists, two of which came on tallies from Mark Scheifele. Wheeler is now third in the NHL with 21 points.

Highlight of the Night:

The rock-paper-scissors battle between Scheifele and Tyler Seguin continued:

MISC:

Patrik Laine has goals in three straight games since he talked about his confidence issues.

Well done by Trevor Strader on Hockey Fights Cancer night in Dallas.

John Carlson’s second career overtime goal helped give the Washington Capitals a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes:

Clayton Keller scored his NHL rookie-leading 11th goal of the year for the Coyotes.

Alex Ovechkin netted his 216th career power play goal. He’s now one behind Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner for 10th all-time:

Mika Zibanejad handed out three assists as the New York Rangers fought back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3. All three of Zibanejad’s helpers came on the power play, where the Rangers scored on three of their five chances.

• Five different goal scorers powered the Boston Bruins a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Jordan Szwarz recorded two assists, his first NHL points since March 26, 2015.

Mitch Marner scored the only goal in the shootout as the Toronto Maple Leafs prevented a Vegas Golden Knights comeback with a 4-3 victory. Nazem Kadri scored a pair of goals in the opening period.

Tomas Tatar‘s goal with 1:14 remaining snapped a 2-2 tie and helped the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The goal was Tatar’s 200th career point.

Chris Tanev is going to want to forget this one, thanks to Anthony Mantha:

Daniel Sedin‘s goal was the 992nd point of his career.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Toronto 4, Vegas 3 (SO)
New York Rangers 5, Columbus 3
Washington 3, Arizona 2 (OT)
Boston 5, Minnesota 3
Winnipeg 4, Dallas 1
Detroit 3, Vancouver 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Winnipeg Jets ’15-16 Outlook

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As crucial as it was to make the playoffs for the first time since returning to Winnipeg, the 2015-16 season is even bigger for the Jets.

After years of frustration, management’s slow-and-steady approach showed serious returns, but the franchise is heading toward multiple forks in the road.

Let’s consider some of the big factors ahead.

Contract years for key players – Hockey fans can debate whether Dustin Byfuglien’s the biggest name on the Jets or not, but he’s the earth-shaking wild card. Andrew Ladd is the gritty, stable winger who might just be the polar opposite. They’ve been immensely important players in Winnipeg, but what does the future hold?

Aging core –  It’s easy to look at 21-year-old Jacob Trouba and 22-year-old Mark Scheifele and picture a bright future, especially with a generally well-regarded farm system.

For all the future talk, it’s a make-or-break season for the current crop of key players. Byfuglien is 30, Ladd is 29, Blake Wheeler is 28 and Bryan Little is 27.

Those core players aren’t ancient, but management probably needs to see them win some playoff games (or even series) to justify keeping the band together.

Goalie question – To especially weary Winnipegers, Ondrej Pavelec’s contract probably feels endless, and it does still have two years remaining. Management is sticking with Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson, which is a short-term gamble. Are they any closer to making a decision that reaches a little further?

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The Jets have some big questions to answer next season, yet let’s not forget: Winnipeg hasn’t been home to an NHL team with this sort of potential for a long, long time.

Jets bring ’14 first-rounder Ehlers to Winnipeg, won’t play Game 4

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Nikolaj Ehlers, taken ninth overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Jets, is reportedly on his way to Winnipeg, where he’ll join the big club — but won’t be in the lineup for tonight’s elimination Game 4 against the Ducks.

The 19-year-old Dane just finished his year with QMJHL Halifax, getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs. It ended what was an otherwise stellar second season in the Q; Ehlers scored 101 points in just 51 regular season games and continued to light it up in the postseason, scoring 31 points in 14 games.

There are some clamoring for Ehlers to go straight into the lineup, and it would make some sense as the Jets have scored just seven goals against Anaheim, four of those coming in Game 3. The club has also gotten little in the way of production from Andrew Ladd, Jiri Tlusty, Michael Frolik, Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele, all of whom are without a goal this series.

That said, throwing Ehlers into the mix would be a pretty bold move. Aside from never having played in the NHL before, Ehlers is relatively small (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and this has been a brutally physical series.

Video: Rakell, Scheifele collide knee-on-knee

Tempers flared late in the first period between the Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks on Monday, courtesy two separate incidents just seconds apart.

The first was a knee-on-knee collision between the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell and the Jets’ Mark Scheifele, which didn’t result in a penalty call.

After a brief scrum and the ensuing faceoff, Dustin Byfuglien just missed popping Ryan Kesler with an open-ice hit. Another meeting of the minds took place, as the two lines tried to sort out their differences.