Trouble keeps following Winnipeg Jets, from one of their best players not reporting to training camp to a bevy of injuries throughout the regular season.
They’re deep in it once again, not because of their Game 1 loss to the Calgary Flames but the big absences incurred during it.
Top center Mark Scheifele could be out a long time with a left leg injury that looked severe, and elite scoring winger Patrik Laine didn’t return with an apparent left hand injury.
The team didn’t have an update on either player Sunday and is preparing to be without both in Game 2 Monday (2:30 p.m. EDT, NHL Network) while looking to avoid a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five qualifying round series.
“The inexplicable is the story of the Winnipeg Jets,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Getting up off the mat was something that we learned to do seemingly every week, and we’ll get it put to the test now.”
While Winnipeg is in the worst shape without two of its best players, history isn’t on the side of any team that loses the opener of a best-of-five NHL playoff series.
Just 15 of 83 teams in that situation went on to win, though the league hasn’t had best of five since 1986.
“It’s something that’s in the past,” Nashville coach John Hynes said before his Predators dropped Game 1 of their series to the Arizona Coyotes. “I don’t think it has any relation to now.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers certainly hope not.
Each of the No. 5 seeds — Pittsburgh against the Montreal Canadiens in the East and Edmonton against the Chicago Blackhawks in the West — find themselves trailing 1-0. The Oilers perhaps have the most to worry about going into Game 2 Monday (10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) after getting blitzed early and often in their empty home rink to start the playoffs.
“Just not good enough all around,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said afterward. “It’s a best of 5, Game 1′s important, we lost it. Nothing we can do about it. Now, all we can do is focus on Game 2.”
Chicago’s depth will be tested without forward Drake Caggiula, suspended a game for an illegal check to the head of Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis.
“He’s a great playoff player and a great guy to have on your team,” Blackhawks teammate Dylan Strome said. “We’ve got a lot of guys here that could step in and hopefully kind of emulate what he does.”
The mood was upbeat at Pittsburgh’s practice Sunday in Toronto ahead of the second game of its series against the Montreal (8 p.m, NBCSN). That confidence perhaps stems from the Penguins finishing the season 15 points ahead of the Canadiens and tilting the ice against them for much of Game 1, an overtime loss.
“We felt like we controlled most of the game, to be honest with you,” Pittsburgh forward Jared McCann said. “We worked on the things that we kind of messed up on, and we’re going to move forward with it.”
Dial back some of the concern for the Rangers going into their second game against the Carolina Hurricanes (12 p.m., NBCSN) after a 3-2 loss in the series opener. The biggest worry is winger Jesper Fast being out after leaving Game 1 because of injury.
Coach David Quinn isn’t sure if rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin will return after being unavailable Saturday. Veteran Henrik Lundqvist figures to start again if Shesterkin can’t play, but New York turning things around isn’t about who’s in net or just getting a better performance from MVP finalist Artemi Panarin.
“We need to get a little bit more out of everybody,” Quinn said. “I don’t want to certainly jump to conclusions or overreact, but it is a short series. We do not have time.”
The top four teams in each conference do have time to iron things out because they’re only playing for seeding in East and West round-robin tournaments. That includes navigating some injury situations.
The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t expected to have captain Steven Stamkos when they open round-robin play in the East against the Washington Capitals (4 p.m., NBCSN). The goal is to get Stamkos up and running for the first game of their seven-game series against one of the qualifying round winners.
“We never really in any of our plans had him playing in this first game,” coach Jon Cooper said. “I’m not sure any of that’s really changed.”
The Capitals are similarly playing it safe with Norris Trophy finalist defenseman John Carlson, who left their exhibition game when he got tangled up with an opponent but has practiced since.
“We’re not going to put him in a situation where he can further risk injury and it will hinder his performance going forward here,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Our most important games are going to be the first round, so we’ll make a decision based on where he’s at health-wise and recovery-wise.”
The Vegas Golden Knights will be without Max Pacioretty when they get going in the Western Conference round robin against the Dallas Stars (6:30 p.m., NHL), though coach Peter DeBoer said the 31-year-old winger’s return is “on the horizon.” That’s a luxury he emphasized they earned by finishing in the top four in the West.
“I knew these three out of fives (in the qualifying round) would be literally dog fights right from Day One,” DeBoer said. “You’re happy not to be involved in that, and you’re happy you get a little more runway before your first series and your happy that first series is a four out of seven.”
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