COYOTES (13-7-3) at JETS (9-11-4)
TV: FS-Arizona, TSN-JETS
Last 10: Phoenix 6-3-1; Winnipeg 4-4-2
Season Series: This is the second and final matchup this season between the current Jets and the franchise formerly known as the Jets. They met in the Coyotes' home opener on Oct. 15, a game that saw Oliver Ekman-Larsson score his first two goals of the season in a 4-1 Phoenix win. The game marks the first time Winnipeg will host the team that left the city in 1996 before establishing new roots in the desert.
Big Story: While the old Jets vs. new Jets subplot will be mentioned more than once, the real story just might be the Coyotes' play of late. Phoenix has overcome a 2-3-1 start to its season and is currently tied with Dallas for the Pacific Division lead after winning three of its last four, including a 4-1 whipping of the Blackhawks in Chicago on Tuesday. The Jets, meanwhile, are looking to rediscover the form that helped them win four of five before their current two-game losing skid.
Team Scope :
Coyotes: The Jets made it a November to remember on Tuesday by closing out an 8-4-1 month with their win in Chicago. Dave Tippett's troops have rebounded nicely since a blowout 5-0 loss to Vancouver on Friday, topping division rival Dallas 3-0 on Saturday before beating Chicago.
Three nights after shutting out Dallas, Smith stopped 24 of 25 shots and came within 43 seconds of his third shutout of the season. Smith may have lost the shutout, but he certainly won the goaltending duel over Chicago starter Corey Crawford, who was pulled in the third period after allowing his fourth goal on 18 shots. As he has done much of the season, Ray Whitney led the charge offensively with a goal and two assists.
"The only downfall of the night was we couldn't keep that one (goal) out for Smitty," Whitney told the team's website. "He played another great game for us and that's kind of the trend of the year right now; if he goes well, we go well. Tonight we gave him a little more wiggle room than he usually gets."
Jets: Winnipeg appeared to be turning the corner on its season with a 4-0-1 run from Nov. 14-25. But consecutive losses have spotlighted the Jets' recent inability to keep a lead.
After blowing a 2-0 lead by allowing four straight goals in Boston on Saturday night in a 4- 2 loss, the Jets returned to Winnipeg on Tuesday to open a five-game homestand against the Senators. As they did in Boston, the Jets raced out to a lead before allowing goals in bunches. Second-period goals from Blake Wheeler and Alexander Burmistrov gave Winnipeg a 2-1 lead, but Zack Smith's marker just 35 seconds after Burmistrov's go-ahead goal took some wind out of the Jets' sails. Two goals just 77 seconds apart from Evander Kane gave the Jets another lead, but three straight Ottawa goals, including the second of the night by Smith, gave Ottawa the 6-4 win.
Who's Hot: Smith has been lights-out lately for Phoenix, but their offense has been led by Whitney, who has six points in his last five games, and Daymond Langkow, who has four points in two games since returning to the lineup. … Kane has four goals in his current three-game goals streak while Bryan Little has eight points in his last seven games.
Injury Report: Kurt Sauer (concussion) and Michal Rozsival (facial injury) are on IR for the Coyotes. … Ron Hainsey and Nik Antropov are out with injuries while Tobias Enstrom (collarbone), Randy Jones (ankle), and Derek Meech (lower body) are all on IR, leaving the Jets' defense depleted.
Stat Pack: Winnipeg's game against Phoenix opens a month in which they will play 12 of 14 games within the friendly confines of the MTS Centre. The team currently sports a 5-4-0 home record and should be rested for January, when they will start a run in which they play 14 of 19 games on the road.
Puck Drop: Thursday night should be an emotional night for Shane Doan, who will be playing his first professional game in Winnipeg in more than 15 years. The Coyotes' captain was selected seventh in the 1995 NHL Draft by Winnipeg and played 74 games as a Jet before the team moved to Arizona. "I don't know how I'll be received," Doan told Dave Vest of the Coyotes' website. "It will be one of those things where we'll wait and see. They've got their team and they're very passionate about their own team so anybody that comes in (on another team) they're not going to be too excited about."