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ST. LOUIS — Paul Maurice is breaking out the line blender as the Winnipeg Jets try to get back into their playoff series against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
Based on the morning skate at Enterprise Center, it appears three of the four lines will have a new look. Only the top unit of Mark Scheifele between Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler remains intact.
Bryan Little will move up to centre a second line with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, while a TLC reunion of Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp is in the works. That means trade-deadline addition Kevin Hayes drops to the fourth line, skating between Jack Roslovic and Mathieu Perreault.
“It’s do our die basically. We need a win tonight,” Hayes said this morning.
Perreault missed Game 2 with an upper-body injury but declared himself fit to play.
“It was kind of unfortunate. It got bad to a point where I couldn’t play. But today we took care of it and then I felt good on the ice,” said Perreault.
Par Lindholm comes out of the lineup with Perreault’s return. No other chances are expected, with the same six defenceman and Connor Hellebuyck in goal. Maurice expects a strong bounceback game from his No. 1 netminder after he struggled in Friday’s 4-3 loss at Bell MTS Place, which gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“That’s really a great strength of his… he gets a little burr in the saddle and he usually puts up an A game,” said Maurice.
Laine missed the morning skate for undisclosed reasons, but Maurice said there’s no issue and he will play tonight. He’s been the best Jets player with goals in both games so far.
Winnipeg is pretty much in a must-win situation but the players aren’t showing any outward signs of panic.
“We know the guys we have in this room. We’ve been tested together before and we typically play our best hockey under those circumstances. So, it gives us a lot to lean on and obviously, like I said, these are the games that you work for to play in. We’re excited for the challenge,” Wheeler said this morning.
“It’s a matter of a bounce here and a bounce there. It’s a close series. You can make a compelling argument that we could be up 2-0, but we’re not. There is something to be said for that, but we’ve just got to realize that the bounces aren’t going our way now, so we’ve got to be cognizant of every little detail out there.
“Every guy has got to be hard on every puck and we’ve got to try and win every single battle. When somebody makes a mistake, we need four guys to pick him up and clean up for him. That’s what makes us a good team. We’ve got to fight for every inch to get back in this one,” Wheeler said.
No lineup changes are expected for the Blues.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.