The Winnipeg Jets have announced that team captain Blake Wheeler has tested positive and is symptomatic for COVID-19 and will not be in the lineup for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. home opener for the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Jets say the rest of the team tested negative.
Coverage on 680 CJOB begins at 5 p.m. with the Curtis Carpets Pregame Show.
Wheeler entered NHL COVID-19 protocols on Monday and was not on the ice for practice. There was no timeline given for his possible return to the lineup.
“We never had to deal with that last year, so it’s kind of a definitely weird scenario to go through,” Mark Scheifele said during his post-morning skate media availability.
“It obviously sucks for him. You hope he’s feeling fine and he comes back feeling good. Obviously the virus is still around.”
The Jets are coming off back-to-back losses at Anaheim and San Jose to open the season while the Wild are 2-0 after a pair of one-goal victories on the road over the Ducks and L.A. Kings.
This will only be the 13th game the Jets have played in 10-plus seasons without Wheeler in the lineup, although the 35-year-old captain, who is from Minnesota, missed six of those games last season.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he felt his team was a little “tight” at the start of Monday’s slightly delayed practice, but did not sense any nervousness during the morning skate Tuesday.
“It’s been part of the world so we kind of live with it. We’re going to be tested every day now and the masks are on all the time,” Maurice said during his media availability ahead of Tuesday’s game.
He said this latest adversity can just be added to the list of distractions that NHL teams deal with on an almost daily basis, “whether it’s your time zone changes, all of those other things that are just factors in all teams.”
Andrew Copp will move up to the No. 1 line with Scheifele and Kyle Connor for Tuesday’s game. The trickle-down effect of Wheeler’s absence will result in Paul Stastny moving up to the second line to play with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Maurice said the Jets will dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen with Evgeny Svechnikov and Nathan Beaulieu drawing back in while rookie Cole Perfetti will be the lone healthy scratch.