While the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets don’t have much in common when it comes to their postseason possibilities, they share similar thoughts and concerns about another rival in the North Division.
The Vancouver Canucks are dealing with a major COVID-19 outbreak that’s shut down the team since March 24 – necessitating the quick schedule change that takes the Senators to Winnipeg for a Monday game – and the list of those affected continues to grow, according to reports on Sunday.
Several Jets and Senators have personal relationships with members of the Canucks.
“You play with a guy for a while and become good friends, you’re obviously concerned for their health and safety,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said of Vancouver defenceman Tyler Myers, his teammate for five seasons in Winnipeg and one of the Canucks on the COVID-19 list.
The Jets were scheduled to host the Canucks on Sunday and Tuesday, but those games have been postponed.
Winnipeg and Ottawa were originally scheduled to play Monday’s game on May 8, but the NHL announced on Friday that the game would be moved up a month because of the postponements.
The schedule adjustments gave Winnipeg two days between games for the first time since March 7-8.
Jets coach Paul Maurice apparently used the extra time to ponder his forward lines after Winnipeg was held to one goal in each of its past two games, both losses to the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maurice currently has his top three goal scorers, Kyle Connor (17), Nikolaj Ehlers (15) and Mark Scheifele (15), together on the top line, but the coach suggested Sunday that he’s leaning toward breaking up his most skilled players.
“In a way, there can be times when there’s too much skill on a line and not enough weight to it,” Maurice said. “Why wouldn’t you like Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers? They do some brilliant things, and then you’ll get into a game where they’re not matched against a line that’s really going to allow that. It doesn’t allow that skillset to truly come out, and then you start thinking it’s a little bit light.”
Maurice said he likes the way Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois have meshed on the second line, but Wheeler would be the most likely candidate to move to a top-line role, likely swapping with Ehlers.
“This could be really, really good again if I can get them out against the right people,” Maurice said.
The Jets will be up against an Ottawa team that’s feeling confident after beating the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on Saturday night, spoiling Montreal’s chance to move within four points of the Jets and Edmonton Oilers, who are tied for second in the North.
Ottawa had lost to Montreal 4-1 two nights earlier.
“We had so much better legs than we did the other night,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said after the win on Saturday.
The Senators will be without defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who returned to Ottawa because his wife is due to give birth. Josh Brown moved into Gudbranson’s spot alongside Braydon Coburn during practice Sunday.
Smith did not disclose who would start in goal against the Jets.
Anton Forsberg made 35 saves in the win against Montreal on Saturday, his second start since being claimed off waivers by the Senators last month. It was his first NHL victory since March 7, 2020, and second since 2018.