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Posted On Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 1:49 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets must avoid letdown against Hurricanes

WINNIPEG – Rather than overlooking a visit this weekend from the Carolina Hurricanes, might the Winnipeg Jets still be looking back at their crucial – and highly emotional – 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals?

Beating Washington at MTS Centre moved the Jets to within two points of the eighth-place Capitals in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Florida Panthers, who meet 10th-place Buffalo tonight, sit five points ahead of the Jets for the Southeast Division lead.

Given the Jets’ road woes this season, every point earned at home is all the more crucial. A three-game road trip that winds from Pittsburgh through Washington and on to Nashville awaits the Jets after meeting the Hurricanes. Points squandered against the Hurricanes on home ice would damage the Jets’ playoff aspirations badly.

The Hurricanes took a 2-0 decision from the League-leading St. Louis Blues on Thursday night after Cam Ward’s 40-save effort. Entering a road date Saturday at Minnesota, Ward has put together a .949 save percentage in his past four starts.

“They were very good,” Jets coach Claude Noel said of the Hurricanes and their effort against St. Louis. Ward picked up his 200th NHL win in earning first-star honors against the Blues. Jeff Skinner, who received a two-game suspension on Friday for a kicking incident, hit the 20-goal mark, as well.

“One thing that will be clear is that we will not take them lightly,” Noel said. “That’s a really hard thing to manage, because you can say all the right things, but the emotional level might not be there. But you get to see what your team is about, too.”
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Win over Jets would give Capitals breathing room

WINNIPEG -- A win tonight over the Winnipeg Jets would allow the Washington Capitals to keep their gaze looking forward and lessen the urge to look over their shoulders.

The Capitals (36-28-6) have used a 7-2-1 run that includes their current four-game win streak to put space between themselves and the Jets, whom they lead by four points. A win tonight would also move the Capitals to within one point of the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead and mark the first time they have won more than four games in a row since a seven-game win streak opened their season.

"We're getting good goaltending and timely scoring," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said of his club's recent push. "We're basically playing playoff-style hockey."

Settling down the Jets and their rambunctious crowd will be one key for the Capitals, who have split the teams' first two meetings this season in Winnipeg.

"They play with so much emotion and passion," center Brooks Laich said of the Jets.

Hunter is also keenly aware of Winnipeg's home power play, which ranks first in the League this season at a 25.0 percent clip.

"They move the puck well," Hunter said. "They have big shots from the point and get traffic in front. Stay out of the penalty box."

Washington will also regain the services of defenseman Mike Green, who will return after serving a three-game suspension. Tomas Vokoun will return to the Washington net after Michal Neuvirth turned in wins over the past two games.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Capitals:

Marcus Johansson - Brooks Laich - Alex Ovechkin
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dennis Wideman - Dmitry Orlov
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Friday, 03.16.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets face critical matchup against eighth-place Caps

WINNIPEG -- The latest in a series of "must-win" games continues tonight for the Winnipeg Jets when they host the Washington Capitals at the MTS Centre.

Washington holds a four-point lead on the Jets (33-29-8) for the Jets for the Eastern Conference's eighth-place slot. With a three-game road trip next week looming for the Jets, ending the Capitals' four-game win streak is crucial. The Jets ended the Dallas Stars' six-game win streak two nights ago at the MTS Centre, where several opponents have seen long point streaks come to an end.

Zach Bogosian's return from a nagging injury appears to be close, but he will again be out of the Winnipeg lineup against the Capitals. Chris Thorburn remains out as well, so former Capital Eric Fehr, who scored only his second goal of the season in the win against Dallas, will again skate on Winnipeg's checking line with Jim Slater and Tanner Glass.

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for Winnipeg, with Chris Mason backing up. Pavelec, an anchor in net all season for the Jets, has spun off a shutout, three wins and a .931 save percentage over his past five games.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Eric Fehr
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stars finish road trip looking to build on Pacific lead

WINNIPEG -- The Dallas Stars made the short Minnesota-to-Winnipeg trip and spent the morning catching up on their sleep.

The Stars (39-26-5) went to sleep having spun off a 10-0-1 run that includes six consecutive wins. A 1-0 win at Minnesota leaves Dallas holding a four-point advantage in the Pacific Division race. Only the ultra-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, who have won nine games in a row, have been able to match the Stars' pace of late, and the team will head home for Texas after tonight's game to play four straight on home ice.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Richard Bachman will start in goal, with Kari Lehtonen backing up.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Stars:

Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Adam Burish
Ryan Garbutt - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Mark Fistric - Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen - Adam Pardy

Richard Bachman
Kari Lehtonen

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Posted On Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 2:38 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets back in action with some ground to make up

WINNIPEG -- A fruitless two-game swing through Vancouver and Calgary followed by a five-day layoff has left the Winnipeg Jets chasing the Eastern Conference pack.

The Jets (32-29-8) last played in Winnipeg on March 5 and finished that night at 72 points, just two points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead. Now the 10th-place Jets trail the Panthers by seven points, and the resurgent Washington Capitals have elbowed their way into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Winnipeg begins a three-game homestand this evening with a visit from the Dallas Stars, who have taken six straight wins and have won 11 of the franchises' 13 all-time meetings. Given that the Jets have only 11 road wins this season and have not shown any indication they will be able to correct their road problems, their stay at home this week has taken on even greater urgency for a club trying to stay above water in the playoff race.

But the Jets will do so without defenseman Zach Bogosian, whose injury woes linger, and right wing Chris Thorburn, who exited the Jets' loss in Calgary and will be out for an extended period of time. Going in for Thorburn on the Jets' checking line will be little-used forward Eric Fehr. Coach Claude Noel has not played Fehr since Feb. 21, and Fehr has only 1 goal this season.

Ondrej Pavelec will again start in net for Winnipeg, with Chris Mason backing up.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Eric Fehr
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Buffalo riding workhorse Miller during improbable run

WINNIPEG -- The Buffalo Sabres' improbable march back into the Eastern Conference playoff race continues tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

A 6-0-2 run has pulled the Sabres (30-27-8) into ninth place, two points behind the Jets. A regulation win tonight would slide Buffalo ahead of Winnipeg for the East's eighth spot. The Sabres have not occupied eighth place since Dec. 19. The Sabres wrap up their five-game road trip that has criss-crossed North America fresh off a 5-3 win at Vancouver on Saturday night.

"We've been treating every game as a playoff game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

But Ruff expects a tough test in Winnipeg, where the Sabres suffered a 4-1 loss on Jan. 19.

"This team here is one of the better home teams," Ruff said, "and has really played well in this building. We're going to have to play well. We're going to have to execute. We're going to have to make plays."

Ruff will start goaltender Ryan Miller for the 19th time in Buffalo's past 20 games. Miller has spun an 11-2-3 mark over his past 17 games to go with a 1.70 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. The Sabres also expect to regain Robin Regehr, who missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury.

Thanks in no small part to Miller's play, the Sabres have been able to shore up defensive problems that plagued them earlier in the season. The Sabres have allowed only seven goals over their past five games, and Miller ran a 106-minute shutout streak earlier in the road trip.

"I think we're playing much better defensively," Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. "We're making teams work hard to get their opportunities. I still think we're playing an aggressive style, but we're there to back each other up."

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Sabres:

Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis - Cody Hodgson - Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe - Ville Leino - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Brad Boyes - Corey Tropp

Jordan Leopold - Tyler Myers
Christian Ehrhoff - Robyn Regehr
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth
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Posted On Monday, 03.05.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets can push Sabres back in race for eighth

WINNIPEG -- Every game going forward for the time being is crucial for the Winnipeg Jets.

But now the Jets (31-27-8) have company in tonight's game with the Buffalo Sabres at the MTS Centre that concludes an eight-game homestand. Written off some time ago, the Sabres have rolled off a 6-0-2 run and can pass the Jets tonight with a regulation win and take over eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Jets have managed a 4-1-2 homestand so far, piling up 29 goals in the process, but have yet to be able to put distance between themselves and the Sabres, Washington, Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Florida Panthers have extended their Southeast Division lead over the Jets to four games. Five of Winnipeg’s final 16 games will pit them against Southeast Division clubs still jostling for playoff positioning.

Jets coach Claude Noel knows that his club will be facing a tough Buffalo opponent riding a wave of confidence.

"They're in a good place right now when you watch them play," Noel said. "They look like they play with confidence. They look like they're feeding off their goaltender. They look like they're certainly feeling good about things. They're a dangerous group."

Defenseman Zach Bogosian, who returned for last Thursday's 7-0 win over Florida after a seven-game absence (upper body), will again miss action due to a lower-body injury. Grant Clitsome will make his Jets debut and take Bogosian's spot in a pairing with Ron Hainsey.

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:30 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers have enjoyed success at MTS Centre

WINNIPEG -- The Florida Panthers look to tighten their grip on the Southeast Division lead further tonight when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.

Visiting teams have experienced difficulty in Winnipeg this season, but the Panthers (30-20-12) have found success in Manitoba this season. Along with the New York Islanders, the Panthers are the only team that has come into the MTS Centre and taken two wins this season. The Panthers also have assembled a 5-1-1 mark over seven games in Canada this season.

A regulation win tonight for the Panthers, who have won three straight games, would extend Florida's divisional lead on the Jets to six points and five points on the Washington Capitals. A win would also tie the club's franchise record of five consecutive on the road, set during the 2008-09 season. The 17 points that the Panthers accumulated in February matched a franchise record for the month.

However, the Panthers will be without Kris Versteeg (lower-body injury), who has lit up the Jets for 5 goals in two games on Winnipeg ice this season.

Jose Theodore is expected to start in net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Panthers:

Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Kopecky - Wojtek Wolski
Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Brian Campbell - Jason Garrison
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets face virtual must-win against first-place Panthers

WINNIPEG -- Tonight's date with the Florida Panthers at the MTS Centre figured to be a critical game for the Winnipeg Jets.

But a home loss that featured a third-period meltdown to the Edmonton Oilers earlier this week means that tonight's game takes on even greater importance for the Jets (30-27-8). Winnipeg trails Florida by four points, and the Jets cede three games in hand to the Panthers. A regulation loss would set the ninth-place Jets six points behind Florida and leave them stuck one point behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals, who will also hold three games in hand after tonight.

While eight of the Jets' final 17 games are against Southeast Division opponents, a season-high eight-game homestand has yielded Winnipeg wins in only three of its first six games. The Jets will have a rare weekend off before concluding the homestand against the Buffalo Sabres early next week.

Aiding Winnipeg will be the return of defenseman Zach Bogosian after an upper-body injury cost him a seven-game absence. With Bogosian's return, the Jets, who have lost 244 man-games to injury this season, have a completely healthy roster. Newcomer Grant Clitsome, whom the Jets acquired via waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, will not dress.

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Zach Bogosian - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Monday, 02.27.2012 / 2:24 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Gilbert trade a surprise for Oilers

WINNIPEG -- The Edmonton Oilers planned to be without injured defenseman Tom Gilbert for tonight's date with the Winnipeg Jets.

What the Oilers (24-31-6) did not expect was to wrap up their morning skate at the MTS Centre with the news that they would be without the well-liked Gilbert for good. Edmonton management shipped Gilbert to the Minnesota Wild for blueliner Nick Schultz. Gilbert's name had not been linked in previous trade rumors, making the trade all the more surprising for his teammates.

Schultz must still pass a team physical, Oilers coach Tom Renney said, and he will not dress for the Oilers against the Jets. Renney spoke by phone to Gilbert, who did not make the trip to Winnipeg.

"Kudos to Tom Gilbert for being an outstanding teammate, obviously, and a really solid NHL defenseman, and one that his teammates and the coaching staff will miss," Renney said. "He brought everything that he could every day to the rink for us, and we certainly appreciate that and wish him real good luck going forward."

Former Winnipeg Jet Nikolai Khabibulin was hoping to dress for tonight's game, but a lingering groin injury will sideline him. Yann Danis will back up starter Devan Dubnyk.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Oilers:

Ryan Smyth - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Jones - Shawn Horcoff - Ben Eager
Lennart Petrell - Eric Belanger - Darcy Hordichuk

Ryan Whitney - Corey Potter
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Andy Sutton - Cam Barker

Devan Dubnyk
Yann Danis
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