The Winnipeg Jets managed to get a split in Las Vegas despite one of their top forwards sitting out with an upper-body injury.
Leaving Sin City on Friday with the best-of-seven series tied at one was a big hurdle cleared for the eighth-seeded Jets in their attempt to knock off the No. 1 Golden Knights.
Home-ice advantage is now on Winnipeg’s side with Game 3 set for Saturday afternoon at Canada Life Centre, with the return of Nikolaj Ehlers a possibility if he gets clearance from the team’s medical staff.
Jets head coach Rick Bowness said the team will see how he’s feeling on Saturday morning.
“Hopefully they will clear him tomorrow and he’s recovered enough that we’re able to put him back in the lineup,” Bowness said Friday from the team hotel on the Vegas Strip.
Ehlers has practised with the team and said he feels ready to return but didn’t play in the first two games at T-Mobile Arena. He was hurt in a game on April 11 against the Minnesota Wild.
Ehlers had 38 points (12-26) over 45 regular-season games and would provide more scoring punch to an offence that was quiet after the first intermission of a 5-2 loss in Thursday’s Game 2.
“Obviously there are always injuries at this time of year and you’re playing without key guys,” said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey. “He’s a key player for us. We’ve had the same mentality all year. Whoever is out of the lineup, whoever is in, we try to play the same way.
“It’s that next guy up mentality.”
Winnipeg posted a 5-1 win in the series opener on Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights’ star players were essentially shut down but they bounced back in Game 2 with Mark Stone sealing the win with two late goals.
“Everybody in this league just wants to play well and help their team win,” said Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. “Yesterday, those guys scored. But we could have scored in the first half too, and we played well and we could have been talking differently right now.
“It’s a long series but you don’t want to change too much. We were successful just the game before and I’m sure it’s going to come back.”
Game 4 is scheduled for Monday night in Winnipeg. The series will return to Nevada for Game 5 on Thursday.
“We’re looking forward to going home to our crowd,” Bowness said. “That rink last night was very loud and our rink in Winnipeg is going to be very loud.
“It’s going to be fun to go home and play with the whiteout and play before our fans again, get the emotional level up where it needs to be when you’re competing at this time of the year.”
If Game 6 is necessary, it will be played April 29 in Winnipeg.
Devils at Rangers
New York leads 2-0 (8 p.m. ET)
The only road team heading home with a 2-0 advantage in its series needed just a short trip across the Hudson River. The Rangers will be back at Madison Square Garden looking to take a commanding lead on New Jersey after thoroughly dominating the Devils in the first two games. The power play was a big difference for the Rangers, getting four goals from Chris Kreider in the two games with the man advantage. But while scoring 10 goals in the two wins was the headline, New York coach Gerard Gallant was equally pleased with the Rangers’ defence. If New Jersey is to get back into the series, the fast, free-flowing style of play that carried the Devils needs to return. New Jersey won’t be uncomfortable in the Garden, either. The Devils had the second-best road record in the Eastern Conference this season and went 1-0-1 at MSG in the regular season.
Avalanche at Kraken
Series tied 1-1 (10 p.m. ET)
For the first time in more than 100 years, games contested in the quest for the Stanley Cup will be returning to Seattle. Returning? Yes, returning. Surely you remember the 1919 Stanley Cup final between the Seattle Metropolitans and Montreal Canadiens. It seems unlikely anyone who was at the Seattle Ice Arena for those games 104 years ago will be under the roof of Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday night when the Kraken host the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their first-round series. The series is tied 1-1 after Seattle earned an unexpected split in Denver against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Seattle took a 3-1 win in Game 1 and had an early two-goal lead in Game 2 before watching the Avs rally for a 3-2 victory to knot the series. “I hope our fans are fired up for it because we will be,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. The last time a Seattle franchise played in a seven-game series before this year was the NBA’s SuperSonics in 2005, when they lost to San Antonio in the Western Conference semi-finals.
– With a report from The Associated Press