Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk intentionally kicked Jets star center Mark Scheifele in the back of the leg, leading to an injury that took Scheifele out of Game 1 of their qualification round series Saturday night.
In the first period, Tkachuk appeared to clip Scheifele’s left leg with his right skate, causing Scheifele hit the boards awkwardly. Scheifele fell to the ice, screaming in pain, and proceeded to roll around in the zone, grasping at his left leg. He left the ice with the help of trainers. The Jets went on to lose 4-1.
“It was intentional,” Maurice said. “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. You can’t see it on the program [camera] feed, but you take the blueline feed and you zoom in. He went after the back of his leg. Could have cut his Achilles [tendon]. Could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
Tkachuk, who went over to speak with Scheifele as he left the ice, received no penalty on the play.
“I don’t expect the referees to find that one,” Maurice said. “You have to look at it after. And it’s grotesque.”
Before Maurice’s news conference, Tkachuk denied he did anything intentional to injure Scheifele, letting out an exasperated laugh when asked if he had any role in the injury.
“No, absolutely not,” Tkachuk said. “I’m back-checking on him. It’s such an accident. I felt terrible. He was turning away, and I just went in and my left skate had a little bit of the speed wobbles. I was probably moving too fast for myself and I was going down. It looked like my leg probably jammed him up.
“I feel terrible. He’s a top player in the NHL and someone I’ve gotten to know in the past few summers [training with him]. It’s not good for the game when somebody like that isn’t in the game. It was very unfortunate and unlucky. But there’s really nothing that could have happened.”
Jets captain Blake Wheeler fought Tkachuk after the incident.
Scheifele, who shared the team lead in points with 73 in 71 games this season, played only 2 minutes, 59 seconds in the loss to Calgary. Forward Patrik Laine also left the game, appearing to have been slashed on the hand. But Mauice said it wasn’t the slash that put him out. Both Scheifele and Laine will be reevaluated by specialists on Sunday.
“We struggled. There’s no doubt about it,” said Maurice about the injuries.
The teams meet again Monday afternoon in Edmonton, the neutral site were the Western Conference postseason is being held inside an empty arena.