Ailing Jets host struggling Blackhawks

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Winnipeg Jets would like to give their medical staff a much-needed break and the work load could start to lessen ever so slightly Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

When center Paul Stastny stiffened up at the beginning of the warmup Tuesday night in Nashville, necessitating Shawn Matthias to parachute down from the press box, he became the ninth member of the team in sick bay. The Jets, in fact, lost a total of seven players to the injured list on their just-completed six-game road trip, which wrapped up with a 3-1 loss against the Predators. That dropped their record over the last 10 days to 3-2-1 but they’re still solidly in second place in the Central Division.

The infirmary now boasts centers Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Matt Hendricks and Stastny, defenseman Jacob Trouba, Toby Enstrom and Dmitri Kulikov and goalies Steve Mason and Michael Hutchinson.

Hutchinson was summoned off the ice by the concussion police after taking a puck to the mask in the first period Tuesday night, but not before he had surrendered three goals — including two in 34 seconds while the Jets were on the power play — requiring the emergency backup to scamper down to the dressing room to suit up and sit on the bench.

Trouba, the Jets’ No. 1 defenseman by most statistical measurements, could be in the lineup against the Blackhawks. Scheifele, Lowry and Enstrom are also reportedly days away from joining him. The Jets called up goalie Eric Comrie from the Manitoba Moose to back up Connor Hellebuyck.

“We’ve dealt with a lot of things throughout the years, and injuries have been one of our big things,” veteran defenseman Dustin Byfuglien told The Winnipeg Free Press following Tuesday’s loss. “It’s never easy to continue doing what we’ve been doing with that many guys out of the lineup.”

The Blackhawks come to town on a hope and a prayer, sitting 14 points back of the two wild-card playoff spots in the Western Conference after having split a home-and-home series with the Boston Bruins on the weekend. They will almost certainly end their nine-year run of making the playoffs — hockey-reference.com predicts they have a 0.2 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason — just one season after posting 50 wins, the second most in the NHL that year and second most in franchise history.

Forward Patrick Kane said there’s no question who his team will be focused on not just on Thursday but in two more games during the season’s final month — Jets sniper Patrik Laine, who is currently second in the NHL with 41 goals. Kane said he thinks the Finnish phenom uses a “unique” stick.

“From what I noticed, it’s almost one of those two-pieced sticks,” he told The Chicago Daily Herald. “He’s got an (Alex) Ovechkin curve, where he’s got a big toe hook and he puts the puck in the pocket in the toe and just kind of leaves it on his stick. You see all of his goals, they’re rocket shots into places he wants it to go. It’s pretty impressive.”