Mark Scheifele said he does not hold a grudge against Matthew Tkachuk for a hit that knocked the Winnipeg Jets center out of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Calgary Flames.
Scheifele sustained a leg injury 5:39 into the game when he attempted to avoid a hit by the Flames forward along the boards. He missed the rest of the best-of-5 series, which the Jets lost in four games at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city.
“I’m a guy that forgives pretty easily,” Scheifele said Tuesday. “For me, it’s not going to affect my day-to-day lifestyle. Matt’s a great hockey player and has a ton of work ethic, I know him from (former NHL forward and fitness trainer) Gary Roberts. I have no hard feelings, obviously I wish it never happened and I played in the rest of that series, but there’s nothing you can do about that now.”
After Game 1, Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice accused Tkachuk of intentionally trying to injure Scheifele.
“It was intentional. It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg,” Maurice said then. “He went after the back of the leg. He could have cut his Achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
Scheifele said he has spoken with Tkachuk and does not believe he was trying to hurt or cut him.
“He did reach out to me to talk to me about it,” Scheifele said. “He was out of control and he tried to get a piece of me. Obviously, I wish that didn’t happen and I would have been playing in the rest of that series, but that’s the way hockey is. I’m happy and I’m very, very thankful that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. If someone is on the ice trying to cut someone with their skate, I don’t think Matt was trying to do that. The way I look at it, at the last second, I turned up and it was kind of like a knee-on-knee scenario.
“The one thing I know, and he talked about being out of control and skating too fast. He took ownership of that. It’s one of those things that’s a learning curve for everyone. … It’s a fast-moving game, but what I said earlier, I’m thankful it wasn’t as serious as it could have been.”
Scheifele, who scored 73 points (29 goals, 44 assists) in 71 games this season, tying forward Kyle Connor for the Jets scoring lead, said he expects to be recovered in plenty of time for the start of the 2020-21 season.
“I’m not really able to do much right now but I’m definitely going to be back to 100 percent in the near future,” Scheifele said. “I’ll be good as new very soon … I didn’t need surgery and I’ll be back better than ever.”
The Jets (37-28-6, .563 points percentage) reached the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 9 seed in the West but without Scheifele and forward Patrik Laine, who also didn’t play after being injured in Game 1, scored six goals in four games against Calgary.
Scheifele said he will be watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs during his rehabilitation.
“Dale Hawerchuk (Hockey Hall of Famer, his former junior coach and former Jets captain) told me this my first year with him,” Scheifele said. “He said, ‘Watching the NHL is an education. It’s a school class on its own. You can learn from the best players in the world every single day.’ I’ve taken that to heart ever since he told me that, and now that’s, maybe 12 years ago.
“I’m thankful for that lesson that long ago and I still have that today.”