The Winnipeg Jets need a big second half to climb their way back into playoff contention, but things aren’t off to a great start. As they return from the All-Star break, three players have ended up in the COVID protocol. Neal Pionk, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Austin Poganski are all unavailable to the team as they prepare to take on the Minnesota Wild tomorrow night. The Jets have recalled Declan Chisholm, Ville Heinola, Johnathan Kovacevic, and Kristian Reichel from the Manitoba Moose.
That trio includes two of the team’s most important players in Pionk and Dubois, not a great way to start things up after a week off. The former plays more than 22 minutes a night, just a few seconds shy of Josh Morrissey for the team lead, and the latter is the team’s second-leading scorer with 33 points in 42 games. Given the fact that Nikolaj Ehlers, Logan Stanley, and others are already out with injuries, losing players like these will really test the depth of the Jets for the next few games.
It’s a group of young players that will try to replace them, though that’s quite the task given how inconsistent the rest of the roster has been this season. The Jets are 18-17-7 for the year and have lost eight of their last ten games. For some teams that could even mean raising the white flag and starting to sell off expiring assets, but Winnipeg was expected to not only compete for the playoffs but the Stanley Cup this season. It’s hard to abandon that goal after just 42 games, even though it might have to end up being the eventual decision.