No. 2 Oilers at No. 3 Jets
7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
Winnipeg leads best-of-7 series, 2-0
WINNIPEG — Nikolaj Ehlers will return to the Winnipeg Jets lineup for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round series against the Edmonton Oilers at Bell MTS Place on Sunday.
The forward missed Games 1 and 2 with an upper-body injury that kept him out of the final nine games of the regular season.
“It was not fun (watching), but it was fun at the same time,” Ehlers said. “You want to be out there, you want to be playing, you want to be battling with the guys. But it was also fun to watch those games. They battled extremely hard, they played for each other and they got two important wins.
“I’m excited to get back out there. I’ve watched what we need to do to win games. I’m going to go in and play the exact same way as the 20 other guys on the team.”
Ehlers tied for third on the Jets with 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) in 47 games during the regular season. He will return to Winnipeg’s second line with Paul Stastny and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
The Oilers will dress forwards Devin Shore, Tyler Ennis and Gaetan Haas for Game 3, replacing James Neal, Alex Chiasson and Dominik Kahun.
Teams that take a 3-0 lead are 192-4 (.979) winning a best-of-7 playoff series.
“This is massive game for us tonight,” Oilers captain Connor McDavid said.
Unable to have fans in the arena due to continuing COVID-19 restrictions, the Jets will try to create the look of their traditional home playoff game white-out with white tarps and towels over the seats.
Here are 3 keys for Game 3:
1. McDavid, Draisaitl impact
McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the top two scorers in the NHL this season, each is without a point in the series and their production is critical to Edmonton’s plan to get back into the win column.
In the regular season when neither scored a point, Edmonton was 2-6-0. Including the first two games of the series, the Oilers have lost seven straight in that scenario.
Their confidence is not waning, however.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity throughout the whole year and we’ve always come back and kind of made a positive out of it,” Draisaitl said. “There’s a lot of trust in our group, a lot of confidence, especially on the road as well, where we’re a really good team (19-7-2 during the regular season). We’re fine. Obviously we’re in a position that we would have liked to be a little bit different but that’s the way it is and we’re going to have to fight our way back into it.”
2. Scheifele line’s role
The Jets have tried to employ a conscientious game against McDavid and Draisaitl and the bulk of the time against them in the first two games has been taken by Winnipeg’s top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor.
In Game 2, when the Jets won 1-0 in overtime and McDavid and Draisaitl played most of the game on the same line, Scheifele had no points and played 20:27 at even strength. He said a grinding type of defensive game can be frustrating and it might reduce offense, but it’s also motivation.
“Those two guys are pretty fantastic hockey players and you give them their time and space they’re going to make you pay,” Scheifele said. “But it’s fun going up against those guys. It’s fun testing yourself against two of the best players in the world. I think that only makes you a better player, it only gives you that extra experience to become a better hockey player in all areas of the game. It’s just extra motivation and it’s just extra fun.”
3. Jump-starting power play
Each team is looking for an edge by breaking through with the man-advantage. In a tight, low-scoring series that has had six combined goals scored, two of them into an empty net, it could be a critical advantage.
Neither team has a power-play goal in the series. Edmonton, which had the NHL’s best power play during the regular season at 27.6 percent, is 0-for-4 in the two games, including 0-for-3 in Game 2 when it had a 21-second 5-on-3.
The Oilers were 8-for-27 on the power play (29.6 percent) in nine games against the Jets during the regular season.
Winnipeg is 0-for-2 in the series, each in Game 2, after having the seventh-best power play during the regular season at 23 percent.
The Jets were 6-for-24 on the power play (25 percent) against Edmonton during the regular season.
Oilers projected lineup
Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Jesse Puljujarvi
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Ryan McLeod — Zack Kassian
Devin Shore — Jujhar Khaira — Josh Archibald
Tyler Ennis — Gaetan Haas — Kailer Yamamoto
Darnell Nurse — Ethan Bear
Dmitry Kulikov — Adam Larsson
Slater Koekkoek — Tyson Barrie
Scratched: Kyle Turris, Joakim Nygard, Patrick Russell, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson, Caleb Jones, James Neal, Alex Chiasson, Dominik Kahun
Injured: Kris Russell (lower body)
Jets projected lineup
Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers — Paul Stastny — Pierre-Luc Dubois
Andrew Copp — Adam Lowry — Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault — Nate Thompson — Trevor Lewis
Josh Morrissey — Dylan DeMelo
Neal Pionk — Derek Forbort
Logan Stanley — Tucker Poolman
Scratched: Ville Heinola, Sami Niku, Jordie Benn, Kristian Vesalainen, Jansen Harkins, Dominic Toninato
Injured: Nathan Beaulieu (hand)
Toninato, a forward, will come out to make room for Ehlers.