Jets host Blues with Scheifele back in fold
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mark Scheifele is glad the Winnipeg Jets have a lot of depth but he'd much prefer to be playing.
After six long weeks, the 24-year-old will finally get his wish Friday night at Bell MTS Place when the Jets host the St. Louis Blues. It will be his first time in the lineup since injuring his shoulder against the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 27.
On his flanks will be wingers Blake Wheeler -- who filled in at center on the top line in his absence -- and sniper Patrik Laine.
"It was awesome to be back and get in some game-like reps," Scheifele told The Winnipeg Free Press. "Obviously, being with Wheels feels really good. You can practice as much as you want, but nothing's like a real game."
Scheifele had 38 points, including 15 goals, in 38 games prior to falling awkwardly into the boards against the Oilers.
When told his charges were 11-2-3 in Scheifele's absence, coach Paul Maurice quipped in his Thursday media briefing, "Yep, we're trading him."
While the Jets are happy to welcome back their No. 1 center, the beds are quickly filling up in sick bay.
Goaltender Michael Hutchinson was diagnosed with a concussion Wednesday after taking a deflected shot in the mask during Tuesday's game-day skate. He joins fellow goalie Steve Mason, who is also out with a concussion, as well as forwards Matt Hendricks, Adam Lowry, Brandon Tanev and Shawn Matthias, and defenseman Jacob Trouba. Eric Comrie has been recalled from the Manitoba Moose to back up Connor Hellebuyck in the Jets net.
The Blues come to town on the heels of a 6-1 vicotry at home over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Centre Brayden Schenn set the tone by fighting Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog right off the opening face-off.
"I thought we'd been a little bit flat at home lately," Schenn told a media scrum afterwards. "You can try and start different ways, try to be physical early or offensive early. I don't do it often but it's part of the game and it's good to get one every once in a while."
Despite going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, the Blues have failed to gain a point on the Jets and remain in third place in the Central Division with 69 points in 56 games. The Jets have 73 points in 54 games and are tied for first with Nashville, which has two games in hand.
The Blues' challenge will be to knock off the NHL's best home team as the Jets are 20-3-2 at Bell MTS Place and have gone nearly two months since their last regulation loss there. Two of those losses were in October.
In addition to bumping Wheeler back to his usual spot on right wing, Scheifele's return will trigger at least one more change to Maurice's lineup card. Rookie Jack Roslovic was dropped from the top line down to the fourth in practice Thursday, where he skated with Nic Petan and Marko Dano, a trio that could easily be the fastest and most skilled fourth line in the NHL.
Updated February 9, 2018