There are two scenarios in which the Winnipeg Jets will approach the lone exhibition game they play prior to puck drop in the playoffs:
1. It’s the end of the regular season when a team knows it’s making the playoffs. A team prepares for that last game differently, in that star players such as Wheeler, Ehlers, Morrissey would be an eye in the sky, sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch in order to rest and avoid injury.
2. It’s the final preseason game before game one of 82. The Jets want their full complement of stars playing and the best lineup is on the ice, battling for 60 minutes in preparation for the season to start.
Fans can expect a hybrid of these two scenarios in the Jets’ exhibition game against Vancouver on Wednesday night.
From scenario two, Paul Maurice will dress his best lineup unless a player has a nagging injury. Expect it may be a little sloppy early on — remember, it’s the first game for the Jets in 139 days — but the expectation on players is that they will play hard but smart.
There will be no blocked shots, no role players sacrificing their bodies for the greater good of the team.
The Jets need to walk the line of high-level, physical hockey, but a clean game with no injury.
From scenario one, don’t expect any major overhaul in the Jets’ structure.
To use the words of Maurice, in the game of hockey, you want teams to finish their routes, finish their checks, get in lanes on the penalty kill and capitalize on offensive opportunities.
It will be as close to game 82 of a regular season — when a team must win to get in the playoffs.
Both the Jets and Canucks will be operating at 100 per cent in order to make the most of the only real game scenario each team has before they try to elevate their game from a pandemic pause to playoff powerhouse.