Sure, the Winnipeg Jets could go 2-1 and make the National Hockey League’s post-season dance, but it’s more likely, with only three games remaining, they’ll have to win all three if they want to keep playing after Thursday night’s final regular season game of 2013.
Oh yeah, and they’ll have to win the first two of them on the road without centre Olli Jokinen and defenseman Zach Bogosian.
In fact, the Jets will likely have to make the playoffs without Bogosian and/or Jokinen.
In a pre-game interview in Buffalo on Sunday night, Jets head coach Claude Noel said that Bogosian probably suffered a concussion from a hit delivered late in Saturday afternoon’s game by the New York Islanders Kyle Okposo. Meanwhile, Jokinen suffered a sprained ankle and is likely out for the season. Neither made the trip to Buffalo for a game on Monday night. Neither are expected to arrive in Washington for Tuesday’s game against the Capitals.
Losing Jokinen is probably not a major loss. After all, the Jets second-line centre has just seven goals and seven assists in 45 games and is a horrendous minus 19 (818th in the NHL) this season. Replacing Jokinen with any of the Jets forwards shouldn’t hinder the team’s play. Noel has Antti Miettinen, Nik Antropov, Jim Slater and Anthony Peluso on the trip.
However, Bogosian is one of the team’s Top 3 defensemen along with Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien and Enstrom is already out of the lineup. Bogo’s loss could be traumatic for the club unless someone such as Zach Redmond, who has returned from injury to play for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, Derek Meech or Arturs Kulda can step up and fill a very large void.
Meanwhile, here’s what the Jets face with three games remaining:
1. With the single-point shootout loss to the Islanders on Saturday, the Jets are now 23-19-3. With 49 points in 45 games, the Jets are in ninth-place in the East, three points back of the eighth-place New York Rangers who whipped the New Jersey Devils — and eliminated New Jersey from the post-season — 4-1 on Sunday afternoon.
2. The Jets now trail the Washington Capitals 52-points to 49 in the race for first in the Southeast Division after the Capitals walloped the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in Montreal on Saturday night.
3. The Jets are now four back of the sixth-place Islanders and three behind seventh-place Ottawa. Toronto clinched a playoff spot on Saturday night.
4. The Jets have three games remaining: Monday night in Buffalo, Tuesday night in Washington and Thursday night back home at MTS Centre against the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers are at Florida and Carolina on Tuesday and Thursday and wrap up the season at home on Saturday against New Jersey. It’s unlikely the Rangers will lose all three.
“I think it’s a point gained for me,” said Noel after Saturday’s heartbreaking 5-4 shootout loss to the Islanders. “We could have had no points. We got one, so move forward and let’s try to win the next game. We’re not doing the math. We’re just trying to win.”
It’s the only way to approach the final week. It really doesn’t matter what happens anywhere else. The Jets need to win three straight and then let the chips fall where they may.