Ehlers, Jets try to bounce back against Kings

WINNIEPEG — If Nikolaj Ehlers was a soccer player in a Central American country, he would be signing up for the Witness Protection Program right about now.

Fortunately for the Winnipeg Jets right winger, he plays hockey for a living. He has also been one of his team's best players of late so his personal safety will not be an issue after he inadvertently shot the puck past his own goaltender to score the overtime winner for the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-2 loss on Friday night in Denver.

The Danish-born forward and his teammates flew back home Saturday morning to get ready to face the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday afternoon at the MTS Centre.

Ehlers already had two assists but few people remembered them after his errant pass — made while he was battling against the boards with two Avalanche forwards deep in his own zone — caught Michael Hutchinson by surprise and slipped between his pads instead of going to the intended target, defenseman Toby Enstrom.

“I thought I had two guys right by me and I just tried to throw it in the middle and get (our) two guys going,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press.

The silver lining is the single point moved the Jets (7-7-2) into third place in the Central Division with 16 points. The Minnesota Wild are one point behind but have four games in hand.

The Kings come to Winnipeg on a two-game losing streak, having fallen to the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Friday and the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Thursday.

Los Angeles is fourth in the Pacific conference with a record of 7-8-0.

The Kings are hoping their captain, Anze Kopitar, is a fast healer. He left Friday's game because of an apparent injury to his left arm after taking a hit along the boards from Senators defenseman Marc Methot.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter told the Los Angeles Times he's optimistic Kopitar will suit up against the Jets.

“He's the kind of guy who is going to try to play,” Sutter said.

Sutter isn't sure what's wrong with goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made his first start since Oct. 18 on Friday night, but pulled himself out of the game after the second period despite working on a shutout.

Early indications are Zatkoff sustained a lower-body injury. He previously was nursing a sore groin. Peter Budaj replaced him and gave up two goals to take the loss.

The Jets have more than their fair share of players in sick bay, too.

Forward Mathieu Perrault was put on the injured reserve list Saturday, necessitating the recall of Quinton Howden, while recently-healed defenseman Tyler Myers left Friday night's game because of a lower-body injury in the third period.

On the bright side, defenseman Jacob Trouba, who recently ended his contract hold out, returned to the lineup for the first time this season and ate up a lot of minutes.