Jets hit road without captain to face Canadiens

The Winnipeg Jets will be without a familiar face when they begin their five-game road trip against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Captain Blake Wheeler did not accompany the team on the flight as he deals with the effects of concussion-like symptoms.

Wheeler, who is third on the team in assists (22) and fourth in points (32), sustained the injury after being on the business end of an elbow from Brady Tkachuk in the Jets’ 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

“He started to feel a little off (Tuesday) and then (Wednesday) started not feeling great,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “The word’s concussion (but) we don’t have a diagnosis on that yet, but we’re going to treat it as it is because we’re obviously really careful with these things.”

The traditionally durable Wheeler has sat out just six games since the Jets relocated from Atlanta in 2011.

“It’s never going to be easy and you’ve got to deal with adversity because stuff like that is going to happen late as the season goes on into the playoffs,” said Winnipeg forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, who scored twice on Monday.

Dubois has six points (two goals, four assists) in six meetings with Montreal in 2020-21, while Kyle Connor has eight (six goals, two assists) in the season series. The Jets own a 4-2-0 record in those encounters, with three of those victories coming in overtime.

Andrew Copp is expected to replace Wheeler on the second line with Paul Stastny and Dubois.

Copp had two assists on Monday to boost his point total to 11 (seven goals, four assists) in his past nine games. His 12 goals and 30 points represent career highs.

While Wheeler will be sidelined for a bit, the Canadiens began life without Brendan Gallagher on Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The alternate captain will be sidelined for at least six weeks after he was placed on long-term injured reserve with a broken right thumb.

“He’s still seeing the doctors and I think from what I understand, he needs just a little bit of time to see, with the swelling and everything, to make sure everything is in place,” Montreal interim coach Dominique Ducharme said. “We’re confident he won’t need (surgery), but you never know.”

Former Hart Trophy recipient Corey Perry scored twice on Wednesday to boost his goal total to four in his past seven games.

“I feel confident to continue to do what I’m doing,” Perry, who turns 36 next month, said of his recent surge.

Tyler Toffoli leads the Canadiens in goals (19) and points (30) this season. He has five and seven, respectively, against the Jets.

Montreal goalie Carey Price sat out the Wednesday contest with a lower-body injury but could be in line to play Thursday when the Canadiens open a six-game homestand. The former Hart and Vezina Trophy recipient is 2-1-1 in four starts versus Winnipeg this season and 17-7-5 with three shutouts, a 2.32 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in 30 career meetings with the Jets.

Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, has started all of the team’s six meetings with Montreal this season, going 4-2-0 with a 3.01 GAA. He owns a 6-4-1 record with a 3.20 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 12 career encounters with the Canadiens.