The Winnipeg Jets are running out of time and healthy superstars in their bid to qualify for the playoffs.
They’ll need to take advantage of the lighter parts of their schedule while they still have the opportunity.
The Jets (34-28-11, 79 points) are seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with nine games remaining heading into their matchup on Monday night at the Montreal Canadiens.
Making the road to the playoffs even more difficult, the Jets lost Mark Scheifele to an upper-body injury in the second period of a 4-3 win at the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.
Scheifele is second on the team in goals (29) and points (70).
Winnipeg was already without captain Blake Wheeler because of an undisclosed injury that kept him out the past two games. He was expected to be sideline against the Canadiens as well.
Wheeler is tied for the team lead in assists (42) with Kyle Connor. He is tied for third in points (54) with Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Winnipeg ended a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) against Ottawa, the first of three straight opponents that reside near the bottom of the standings.
The Dallas Stars also won on Sunday, keeping the gap between them and the Jets at seven points for the final wild-card spot in the West.
Winnipeg doesn’t have any games remaining against the Stars, who won three of four meetings against the Jets this season, all in overtime or a shootout.
Winnipeg also will need to leapfrog the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks in the standings.
After the Jets play the Canadiens, they’re scheduled to host the Seattle Kraken, who have the fewest points in the Pacific Division.
After that, it gets brutally tough for the Jets, who face five straight games against the playoff-bound Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche.
“We look at some opportunities that we’ve let slip away,” Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry said. “We talked about we’re going to need help. There are some games that we didn’t help ourselves. We still have a chance and that’s the biggest thing we still have. We still have hope.”
If the Jets are without Scheifele and Wheeler against Montreal, they’ll count on Nikolaj Ehlers to stay hot.
He had a goal and two assists against the Senators to extend his point streak to six games (five goals, six assists).
The only team in the Atlantic Division with fewer points than Ottawa is Montreal, which has made a U-turn this season after participating in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2020-21.
The Canadiens (20-41-11, 51 points) have hinted that veteran goalie Carey Price could make his season debut this week, a timetable that may have been sped up by the injury to Jake Allen in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
“We’re not going to rush Carey because of (Allen’s injury),” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said. “We’re going to stay the course with Carey.”
Salary-cap space could also prevent the Canadiens from activating Price against the Jets. Montreal recalled goalie Cayden Primeau from Laval of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
Sam Montembeault is the other goalie on the roster for the Canadiens.
–Field Level Media