Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price might be the most well-known names on their teams’ current rosters.
But neither will be available when the Jets and the Canadiens wrap up a two-game series Saturday in Montreal.
Wheeler remains sidelined with a concussion and was left at home when the Jets hit the road for a five-game Eastern Canada trip. Price won’t be available for the Canadiens until next week with a lower-body injury.
Wheeler took an elbow from Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk on Monday and coach Paul Maurice said Wheeler started feeling worse over the next couple of days.
Wheeler had played in every game for the past three calendar years – 194 consecutive games dating back to April 3, 2018 – and had missed only six in the 10 seasons since the franchise relocated from Atlanta.
“It’s always tough playing without your top players, and obviously Wheels is a huge part of this team and we miss him,” Jets forward Trevor Lewis said after Thursday’s 4-2 victory against the Canadiens. “But I thought we came out [strong] early and played well.”
Lewis, Josh Morrissey, Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves.
“I feel like we’ve got guys who have been in the battles before,” Copp said. “Especially up front, you know, it’s a pretty veteran group and guys know what they need to do. There’s obviously little conversations with your linemates and as a whole, but nothing more than the standard game really.”
The Jets took a 3-1 lead in the first period and held on to move eight points ahead of the Canadiens for third place in the North Division.
“If we removed the three gifts that we gave up in the first period, we didn’t play a bad game,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. “It’s tough to have success in this league, especially when you give up three gifts to start.”
Montreal’s Jake Allen made 23 saves in his second straight start for the ailing Price. The Canadiens gave up a goal in the game’s opening minute for the second straight game, as Morrissey scored just 18 seconds in.
“You’ve got to give your team a chance,” Allen said. “I have very high expectations of myself all the time. No matter what, I always think there would be a way to stop the puck. I was definitely happy with the way I completed the rest of the game, but I was disappointed in my first period, no question.”
Ducharme said Price’s injury has been lingering, and he experienced discomfort during the 3-2 overtime victory Monday against Edmonton and didn’t travel for Wednesday’s game at Toronto.
“It just got a little bit worse [Monday],” he said. “We don’t want to get in a situation where it gets too bad and now he’s missing a long time or so on. We want to be careful with that. That’s the reason why he’s going to get a few games off and we’re confident that somewhere next week he’s going to be back.
“From there? We’ll see. Obviously, it’s going to be a balance between playing enough, getting enough rest, practice time, with the schedule we have. We’ll see how he is, how the injury is being managed.”