Jets file busy flight plan



NASHVILLE — Life is about to get a lot busier for the Winnipeg Jets.

A nearly three-week Winter Olympics break in February has now been filled thanks to the global pandemic which is preventing players from heading to Beijing. Six previously postponed Winnipeg home games and three road games have new dates as part of a major regular-season overhaul announced Wednesday by the NHL impacting a total of 121 games around the league.

Winnipeg has not played a home game since Dec. 19, instead playing eight straight road games spread out over nearly an entire month, including this current trip which began Tuesday in Washington, continues Thursday in Nashville and concludes this weekend with back-to-back games in Boston and Pittsburgh.

The Jets are set to make their return to Canada Life Centre next Tuesday when they host Florida, followed by a game two nights later against Vancouver. Only 250 fans will be allowed in the building under current public health orders set to expire on Feb. 1.The club is in the process of contacting ticket holders about the process to secure seats.

Whether any of the rescheduled games can see bigger crowds remains to be seen, although that was certainly the hope in moving them further down the road.

“We are profoundly grateful to our fans for their support and understanding during a challenging time and to our Clubs, the NHL Players’ Association and the Players for their co-operation in a rescheduling of unprecedented logistical complexity,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

More than 70 per cent of all NHL players have tested positive for COVID-19 this season, and the hope is the majority of teams are now out of the woods on that front. Winnipeg has had at least 16 players and two coaches stricken by the virus.

Currently, only defenceman Brenden Dillon, backup goaltender Eric Comrie and assistant coach Wade Flaherty remain in protocols. All are currently in Nashville and expected to rejoin the team as early as Thursday.

As a result, the NHL is planning to shift its protocols following the All-Star Game on Feb. 5, in which only symptomatic players will be tested. It will still be required for cross-border travel to satisfy existing government regulations.

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Washington Capitals defenceman Dmitry Orlov has been suspended two games for a knee-on-knee hit which injured Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers Tuesday night in Washington.

The play somehow went unpenalized at the time. Ehlers was irate, screaming at officials after he hobbled off the ice. He did not return. To add insult to injury, Orlov assisted on Tom Wilson’s overtime winner.

“He’ll be evaluated. He’s got an appointment (Wednesday) afternoon. He will be evaluated and then we will be able to provide an update. I will tell you this, he will not be available for (Thursday) or the weekend,” interim coach Dave Lowry said of Ehlers.”

Orlov, 30, will forfeit approximately US$51,000 in salary as a result of his punishment. Ehlers, 25, is tied for third on the Jets in scoring with 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 34 games.

“Nikky is a very dynamic player. Anytime you lose a player in your top-six, you’re going to feel it. But like we said, the expectation is that somebody else is going to have to come in and fill that spot. It becomes opportunity,” said Lowry.

“Look at a guy like (Cole) Perfetti sliding in with Blake (Wheeler) being out. (Evgeny Svechnikov) goes down, (Kristian Vesalainen) goes down, those guys and (Jansen Harkins) were all playing with (Kyle Connor) and (Pierre-Luc Dubois). Cole was the beneficiary of that and he’s played well enough to warrant another look.”

Additionally, the Jets are expecting to get a trio of forwards in Wheeler (injury), Svechnikov (injury) and Paul Stastny (COVID protocol) back in the lineup in the coming days.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

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