After sleeping on it, the Winnipeg Jets doubled down on the accusations that Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk intentionally injured Mark Scheifele during their Western Conference qualifying-round series opener.
In the immediate aftermath of Calgary’s 4-1 victory Saturday night in Edmonton, Jets coach Paul Maurice said Tkachuk kicked the back of Scheifele’s leg when he tried to throw a first-period check, calling it “filthy” and “dirty” and saying the incident “could have ended (Scheifele’s) career.”
On Sunday, the eve of their Game 2 clash in the best-of-five series, Maurice and forward Adam Lowry both stood by those thoughts.
“If you sin once are you a sinner? Sin 10 times? I don’t think he came off the bench and said, ‘Hey I’m going to see if I can go stab the back of Mark Scheifele’s leg with my skate,'” Maurice said. “I think he got to that point and I think that’s exactly what he did.”
Lowry added: “I don’t think it’s accidental. I think it’s intentional. I don’t know if he meant to try and cut him, but I think it’s one of those plays where how often does your skate come off the ice and land on a guy’s ankle?”
Maurice wouldn’t divulge Scheifele’s status for the crucial Monday clash, or even exactly what injury the center suffered. It was the same for sniper Patrik Laine, who left the game early in the third period with a hand or wrist issue.
For his part, Tkachuk said there was no malice on the play and called it an accident.
“I felt terrible,” Tkachuk said. “He was turning away and my left skate had a little bit of the speed wobbles and I was moving too fast for myself. My left skate just collided and it looked like it jammed him up. His body was going one way, but the way I hit him his leg stayed the one way.”
With or without Scheifele and Laine, though, the Jets have to regroup in a hurry. After a slow start in Saturday’s clash, the eighth-seeded Flames dominated the game in every facet. Calgary held a 33-18 edge in shots (despite Winnipeg holding a 7-1 edge at one point), while netting a pair of power-play goals and a short-handed marker as the Jets failed to convert on seven man-advantage chances.
“It’s going to be another hurdle for us, but … we’ve been doing it all year,” said Jets forward Andrew Copp. “If we miss any of those guys, it’s going to be a collective effort for sure but we’ve handled circumstances all year and we’re going to rely on that next-man-up mentality and that team play we’re capable of playing.”
Should one of the injured players miss the game, the ninth-seeded Jets likely will turn to Jansen Harkins, and then Gabriel Bourque if two changes are needed.
Outside of their sluggish start, the Flames had plenty to smile about in the opener, but expect the Jets, even if they are without two key forwards, to ratchet up their game a notch or two.
“We know that’s a real good hockey team over there.” Flames coach Geoff Ward said. “Nothing’s happened yet. We’ve won one game and that doesn’t mean anything. We know they’re going to be better next game and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
–Field Level Media