Mark Scheifele (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Winnipeg’s offense has been one of the league’s worst over the past two months, but the struggling Jets should get some scoring punch back Tuesday with the return of Mark Scheifele. It’s not all good news, though, as Mathieu Perreault could be out with a lower-body injury.
The Jets entered the season with such hope. Winnipeg had finished the 2014-15 season strong, earned themselves their first playoff berth since relocating to Manitoba and gave reason to believe another playoff push would be coming this season. Instead, the Jets find themselves with the fifth-worst point total in the league and thinking more about a lottery pick than a chance at challenging for the Stanley Cup.
Not helping matters is that a number of the Jets’ key players haven’t been able to stay healthy, but no major offensive contributor has struggled to stay healthy of late quite like pivot Mark Scheifele. First, Scheifele went down with a concussion he suffered following a collision in practice with captain Andrew Ladd, and the 22-year-old was only back for three games before hitting the shelf with a lower-body injury suffered when he crashed into the boards Jan. 7 against Dallas.
“I was in the worst pain I’ve ever been in,” Scheifele told WinnipegJets.com’s Ryan Dittrick. “I went knee-first into the boards, my shin pad came up and there wasn’t anything protecting me. I was going full speed going into it, too. I made the play to Matty (Perreault) and I tried to take a step because I didn’t really feel it at first, and then I took a step on that leg and couldn’t bear it. It was killing me.”
The Jets never specified what exactly had Scheifele on the shelf, but it was bad enough he has missed the seven games for the Jets at a time when the offense is in dire need of anyone who can put the puck in the net.
Overall, Winnipeg’s offense has been fine — 121 goals for puts them in a tie for 20th in the league — but since the start of December, the Jets’ offensive production has been woeful at best. Since Dec. 1, the Jets have scored 54 goals, which is the fifth-worst production of any offense in the NHL over that span. Worse yet is their 30 goals at 5-on-5, the fourth-fewest of any team. It’s the 5-on-5 production that has been the ugliest over the past month, too, as Winnipeg has only cashed in 10 times playing five-a-side in January. That’s tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the worst 5-on-5 offensive output this past month.
Before he fell injured, Scheifele was on his way to having the most productive season of his career, too, so it’s no wonder losing a piece like that has hurt Winnipeg so much over the past two months. In 37 games, Scheifele has managed 12 goals and 23 points, which puts him four goals and 27 points shy of setting career-highs in both categories. He’s still on pace to score 20 goals for the first time in his career, but there’s no telling if that pace could slow as he works back from injury.
But just as getting Scheifele back in the lineup helps the Jets’ offense — and it does — losing Mathieu Perreault will hurt. While it’s not certain that Perreault will miss any length of time, the 28-year-old hasn’t practiced with the Jets since being knocked out of Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils in the first period.
It was expected the Jets would update Perreault’s status Sunday, but coach Paul Maurice told media that there were additional tests to be done before he could update Perreault’s status. Perreault wasn’t skating with the team Monday and was ruled out of Tuesday's game.
Perreault is third on the Jets in scoring this season with seven goals and 31 points in 48 games, and he’s on pace for the best offensive season of his career and only 13 points away from setting a new career-best mark.