Opening round of playoffs includes rare back-to-back games

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs has been announced, with the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers set to play Game 1 of their best-of-seven series Wednesday night at Rogers Place.

The first two games will be played in Edmonton, which is the No. 2 seed in the Canadian division, with Game 2 set for next Friday. Puck drop for both games is at 8 p.m.

John Woods / The Canadian Press files</p>
<p>Adam Lowry will be getting vaccinated against COVID-19 now that he is eligible.</p>
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John Woods / The Canadian Press files

Adam Lowry will be getting vaccinated against COVID-19 now that he is eligible.

Winnipeg finished as the third seed and will host Game 3 and 4 at Bell MTS Place, which is scheduled as a rare back-to-back Sunday and Monday. Start times are still being decided.

“You just don’t see back-to-back games in the playoffs very often. You’d prefer you could keep your opponent on the road for another day, but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t win home ice advantage,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “Sometimes after games in the playoffs you want to play the next day. If you won, you’re feeling like ‘let’s go back and play a doubleheader,’ you’re all jacked up. When you lose, you want to get back on it like right away. The team that wins is going to think the back-to-backs were great.”

Game 5, if necessary, will be played in Edmonton on Wednesday, with Game 6 set for Friday in Winnipeg, followed by a series-deciding Game 7 back in Edmonton on Sunday. Again, exact start times have yet to be determined.

A different kind of shot: With all adults in Manitoba now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Jets centre Adam Lowry was asked about he and his teammates eagerness to join in the fight against the coronavirus.

Many teams in the U.S. have already received their dose(s) and the NHL has recently stated clubs with enough members vaccinated will get extended freedoms, including being able to hang out with teammates in social settings.

Lowry took a diplomatic approach, even if he did share his own interest, not wanting to dive too deep into the subject.

“I think everyone’s decision to get vaccinated is a personal one. I don’t think it’s my place to speak for other people whether they should or should not. I’m getting in line when I can, so that’s a personal decision,” Lowry said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m not going to tell anyone else they should or shouldn’t. I think that’s something where they need to do their own reading, and kind of talk to the doctors and talk to the experts to form their own opinion on that.”

A member of the Jets public relations staff then intercepted the conversation to clarify that there are individuals on the Jets travelling party, including players, that have received the vaccine but that no names would be provided in order to protect people’s privacy. And it was noted vaccinations that have occurred have been based “according to the eligibility laid out by the province,” meaning it’s all been done above board.

Checking in: Maurice was asked if there was anything unique he’s experienced this year owing to COVID-19 that he might want to stick around once the global health pandemic is finally in check.

The Jets bench boss thought for a minute, before giving a thoughtful answer centred on mental health.

“I’ll go back to that three-game series we had in Toronto. We spend an awful lot of time talking about things (relating to) mental wellness and that’s something I probably haven’t done a whole lot of. Asking the questions, how are these guys doing and getting to them individually (and asking) ‘How are you handling this?’” he said. “I can’t come out here and say it’s a tough life in the NHL because relative to what other people are going through, seriously, how bad is it? You’re at the Ritz (Carlton) for seven days, how bad is that? But then there’s this isolation piece, where we’re no different than anybody else. So, we started thinking about it and started talking about just that idea of mental wellness and mental well-being and thinking about it more than just winning and losing hockey games.

“There’s a contact there with players there that I probably didn’t have the same way in the past and I think it was valuable. It was valuable for me and even helping in our stretch where things were going bad for us, I found this group got tighter in the last four or five games together. Not further apart and that was a really big positive. Coming out of that Montreal game after a real tough night, that the players had got it right after that game. They had come together and started to work our way out of this a little bit. So, there’s a sense of community here maybe that’s borne out of not having any other community that you can have any contact with. It’s just us and we came out of that and would understand that that’s put more stock and more time into how the players are doing individually, from a mental health standpoint.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

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