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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 1:25 PM

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

Win would put Jets in division lead

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets' bid to join the upper reaches of the Eastern Conference continues tonight at the MTS Centre with a visit from the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Jets (29-26-6) have used three consecutive wins and the struggles of the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals to elbow their way into the playoff discussion.

The Flyers-Jets season series has seen Winnipeg take all three meetings this season, including a 6-4 win at the MTS Centre on Nov. 19. A win tonight in the third contest of an eight-game homestand would push the Jets ahead of the Panthers and into first place in the Southeast Division and third place in the Eastern Conference.

However, the Panthers will hold four games in hand on the Jets after tonight, and Jets coach Claude Noel is placing little stock in what leading the Southeast Division at this point in the season would mean.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian will miss his fourth straight game tonight while forward Eric Fehr will remain in the Winnipeg lineup.

"I think it has the potential to be longer," Noel said of Bogosian's status. "We're hoping for Thursday (at home against Tampa Bay). It is day-to-day."

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for the Jets once again after backstopping the Jets to home wins against Boston and Colorado this past weekend.

Here is the projected lineup 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 - Eric Fehr

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal, with Chris Mason the backup.
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Posted On Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 3:13 PM

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

Avalanche's projected lineup for Sunday

WINNIPEG -- The Colorado Avalanche will have an opponent with which to commiserate, but they do not expect any sympathy from the Winnipeg Jets.

Like the Jets, the Avalanche (29-26-4) have 62 points and find themselves in a battle to break into the playoff top-eight after winning at Edmonton, 3-1, on Friday night. Sitting in 11th place, the Avalanche sit three points behind the eighth-place Calgary Flames and will also need to overtake the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars.

"It's going to be an exciting game," Colorado coach Joe Sacco predicted. "It should be almost a playoff-type atmosphere."

The Avalanche will welcome back Matt Duchene, who missed 20 games with a knee injury. Duchene has 12 goals in 39 games before suffering the first major injury of his career.

"We're excited to have him back," Sacco said. "It's not going to be the easiest transition when you miss that amount of time, so it's going to take a little bit of time to get his feet well. But we're a team now that has played much better."

"Offensively, we still need more guys contributing," Sacco said of the  and Matt helps in that area."

Sacco would like to manage Duchene's minutes on a line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, but admitted that the plan may be subject to change.

"You always say that," Sacco said, "but it never really happens. It just depends on how the game is going and how he is feeling. We'll monitor as we go along. He has looked good in practice. He looks like he has a lot of energy, a lot of jump."

Duchene spent Saturday making sure that he was well-rested for the tonight's game and watched the Calgary-Los Angeles game on Hockey Night in Canada to tire himself out before bed.

"It's great to be back," Duchene said.

Duchene hopes that his play will merit extra ice time in spite of his long lay-off, and Sacco admitted that Duchene's first-line status and role on the Colorado power play will cause his minutes to accumulate quickly.

"It doesn't matter which way you contribute," Duchene said, "as long as you contribute."

While regaining Duchene's services, Colorado will be without Peter Mueller and T.J. Galiardi.

Semyon Varlamov will again start in net for the Avalanche after stopping 26 of 27 shots at Edmonton.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Avalanche:

AVALANCHE

Matt DuchenePaul StastnyMilan Hejduk
Mark OlverRyan O'ReillyGabriel Landeskog
Daniel WinnikJay McClementKevin Porter
Cody McLeodDavid Van Der GulikChuck Kobasew

Kyle QuinceyErik Johnson
Jan HejdaRyan O'Byrne
Shane O'BrienRyan Wilson

Sergei Varlamov
Cedrick Desjardins
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Posted On Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 3:07 PM

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

Jets' projected lineup for Sunday

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets bought themselves more time in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Friday night that began an eight-game homestand.

Now the Jets (28-26-6) have a chance to make further headway when the Colorado Avalanche visit the MTS Centre tonight. The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs both lost on Saturday night. With a win tonight, the Jets could pass the Capitals and tie the Maple Leafs at 64 points. A Jets win and a regulation loss for the Florida Panthers would also slide Winnipeg to within one point of the Southeast Division lead.

Zach Bogosian will miss his third consecutive game on the Winnipeg blue line. In an attempt to generate more production from his fourth line, Jets coach Claude Noel will replace Antti Miettinen with Eric Fehr.

But Fehr drew a sharp challenge from Noel. Fehr has just one goal in 31 games this season and has struggled to make an impact in his first year with the organization after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Capitals.

"I'd like him to show me that he wants to have success," Noel said of Fehr. "It's that simple. Help me to help you. I'll play him 20 minutes if he can help me. All I want from him is to just perform. Ask yourself at the end of the day, 'What impact did I have on the game?'"

"Show it to me," Noel continued. "I'm waiting."

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for the Jets.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg:

JETS

Andrew LaddBryan LittleBlake Wheeler
Evander KaneAlexander BurmistrovKyle Wellwood
Tanner GlassJim SlaterChris Thorburn
Tim StapletonNik AntropovEric Fehr

Toby Enstrom – Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny OduyaRon Hainsey
Randy JonesMark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 2:56 PM

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

Hennessy in lineup as Bruins continue road trip

WINNIPEG -- The Boston Bruins continue their season-high six-game road trip tonight against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre.

After taking a 4-3 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens to open the trip, the Bruins (35-18-2) sit second in the Eastern Conference standings, but are trying to fend off the Ottawa Senators, who are four points behind Boston.

Boston will be without forward Rich Peverely, who will miss four-to-six weeks with a sprained right-knee ligament that he suffered in Montreal. The Bruins recalled Josh Hennessey from Providence of the AHL to replace Peverley, who joins Nathan Horton (concussion) as injured Bruins forwards.

"That's two guys that play a lot of minutes for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien told Boston reporters. "That's just part of the game."

But Julien is taking Peverley's loss in stride and choosing to lean on his club's adherence to strong systems play against Winnipeg, who beat the Bruins, 2-1, when the clubs met at the MTS Centre on Dec. 6.

"We always believe that when we respect our game plan and our system, we're usually successful," Julien said.

Tuukka Rask, 0-3-1 in his last four decisions, will take his turn in the Boston net. The start will be Rask's 100th NHL appearance.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins:

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Benoit Pouliot
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille - Chris Kelly - Jordan Caron
Gregory Campbell - Josh Hennessy - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Zach Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Adam McQuaid - Andrew Ference

Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas
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Posted On Friday, 02.17.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

Potential make-or-break homestand starts for Jets

WINNIPEG -- A season-high eight-game homestand stretching over three weeks will likely determine whether or not the Winnipeg Jets are a playoff team this season.

After taking a 4-3 shootout win on the road over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, the Jets (27-26-6) returned home and will meet the Boston Bruins tonight at the MTS Centre. The first step in this eight-game stretch will involve the Jets confronting two of the demons that have tormented this season -- games on consecutive nights and an inability to hold leads against the Bruins.

Winnipeg sits five points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead and four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the eighth-place slot in the Eastern Conference. The ninth-place Washington Capitals sit between the Jets and both the Panthers and the Maple Leafs. Tonight's Washington-Florida game will ensure that at least one of the Capitals or Panthers will earn points tonight, making this game all the more critical for Winnipeg.

The Jets are 0-9-0 this season in back-to-back games, and coach Claude Noel turned tense when asked about his club's struggles.

"We'd like to change that if we could," Noel replied. "That's about all I have to say."

As well, the Jets have surrendered leads in both of their visits this year to Boston, including a third-period lead on Jan. 10 in which the Bruins scorched the Jets for three goals in a 6:41 third-period span.

"They're a really good third-period team," Noel said of the Bruins, "and we witnessed that first-hand when they took over a game in Boston. We have a lot of respect for what they do and what they're about."

Zach Bogosian, who missed Thursday's game due to injury, is not expected to return to the Winnipeg blue line tonight. Randy Jones will again play in place of Bogosian.

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for the Jets.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg:

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
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 2:56 PM

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

Critical stretch for Jets begins Tuesday night

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel stops just short of terming this week as the make-or-break point of his club's schedule.

"I don't like to put it in those terms, 'make-or-break,' because it is black-and-white," Noel said after the Jets' morning skate, "but I think we know where we stand."

The Jets (26-25-6) begin a busy week at home tonight at against the New York Islanders simultaneously trying to catch the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead and the Toronto Maple Leafs for eighth place in the Eastern Conference while fending off the likes of the Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning attempting to overtake the Jets.

Tonight's meeting with the Islanders begins a stretch of nine of 10 games at the MTS Centre for the Jets, who will visit Minnesota on Thursday night before settling in Winnipeg until well into March.

"It's going to be an important time," Noel said. "If we can duplicate the month of December, we might help ourselves a bit."

Winnipeg has won two of its last three games to remain within striking distance in the Eastern Conference hunt, but an 8-5 loss at Pittsburgh this past Saturday afternoon left Noel exasperated. One of the casualties of Saturday's performance was center Nik Antropov, whom Noel has demoted to the fourth line. Antropov has gone nine games without a goal and struggled defensively against the Penguins. Alexander Burmistrov will take Antropov's spot on the Jets' second line with Evander Kane and Kyle Wellwood.

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for the Jets.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg:

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 - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 2:49 PM

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

Islanders trying to hang on at edge of playoff race

WINNIPEG -- If the New York Islanders are not within striking distance of a playoff spot, they are at least hovering closely enough to the playoff line and making sure that meaningful games are a part of the second half of their season.

Having held a record above .500 after Feb. 1 for the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Islanders (now 23-24-8) have gone 10-7-2 since New Year's Day to creep to within eight points of the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference chase. Holding a game in hand on the Leafs, the Islanders begin a critical week tonight in Winnipeg before journeying to St. Louis for a Thursday date with the Blues. The Islanders have earned points in six of their last eight games and return to a building where they took a 3-2 shootout win against the Jets on Dec. 20.

"We have a chance to gain ground," leading scorer John Tavares said after the Islanders' morning skate at the MTS Centre.

Michael Grabner and his Islanders teammates expect a tough test against the Jets, who are engaged in their own playoff race.

"They're going to come out hard," Grabner said of the Jets. "Everybody needs the points right now."

Evgeni Nabokov, who is 7-3-0 in his past 10 games, is expected to start for the Islanders.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Islanders:

Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Matt Martin - Josh Bailey - Nino Niederreiter
Jay Pandolfo - Tim Wallace - Brian Rolston

Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina
Aaron Ness - Andrew MacDonald

Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 3:48 PM

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

Noel trying to get Jets 'over the hump'

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel spent his day off Sunday stewing over his club's 8-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon.

"It was really disappointing for me," Noel said Monday. "That was a hard game to watch, coach, to be a part of. I was really disappointed. It was not a good plane ride home."

Typically a defensively sound team that struggles to score, the Jets posted five goals against the Penguins but lost in trying to keep up with the Penguins in a run-and-gun affair.

"I didn't like the game for a lot of reasons," said Noel. "I wasn't quite sure what we were doing. I didn't get it there."

But Noel’s mood had brightened by the time the Jets reconvened at the MTS Centre on Monday morning for a lengthy -- and animated -- practice session. The Jets who trail the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead by seven points and the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs by four points, will host the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

The Washington Capitals sit in ninth place, three points ahead of the 10th-place Jets. The Capitals and Panthers each have two games in hand on Winnipeg, while the Maple Leafs have played one fewer game than the Jets. With two weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, and the Panthers and Capitals threatening to pull away, the Jets do not have much of a luxury of allowing themselves time to resolve their problems.

"It is perplexing to a degree," Noel said of the Jets' performance in Pittsburgh, "but I think I understand it, so I'm trying to solve it."

If the Jets are to continue their playoff push, they will need a strong performance at home this week. After Thursday's game at Minnesota, the Jets will remain in Winnipeg for an eight-game homestand that will span nearly three weeks. After meeting the Wild, the Jets will play 11 of 13 games at the MTS Centre.

However, despite having won two of their past three games, the Jets have not been able to cross into the Eastern Conference's top eight, nor have they been able to assemble any semblance of consistency since their franchise-record 10-3-1 mark in December.

"The disappointing thing for me is that we're at the hump," Noel said, "and we can't get over the hump. I keep trying to push us over the hump. But we can't, and that is the frustrating thing for me, trying to get over that hump, and that is the challenge."
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 2:24 PM

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

Toronto penalty kill perfect since last trip to Winnipeg

WINNIPEG -- The Toronto Maple Leafs roll into Winnipeg with three consecutive wins in hand and a real chance to make further headway in the Eastern Conference playoff race against the Jets.

The Leafs dispatched the Edmonton Oilers, 6-3, before heading to Winnipeg, where they did not hold a morning skate today. In beating Edmonton, the seventh-place Leafs climbed to within two points of the fifth-place Pittsburgh Penguins and own a 6-3-1 mark over their past 10 games.

The once-maligned Toronto penalty kill continues to shine and has not allowed a power-play goal since the Jets struck twice on the man-advantage when the teams met at the MTS Centre on Dec. 31. The Leafs have killed off 22 consecutive opposing power plays over the ensuing 15 games. The Toronto penalty kill received a night off against the Oilers in the Leafs' first game since March 28, 2001 in which neither the Leafs nor their opponent registered a penalty.

Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start for the Maple Leafs for the first time in four games.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Toronto:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Matthew Lombardi - Tim Connolly - Joey Crabb
Mike Brown - David Steckel - Colby Armstrong
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
 
Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 2:22 PM

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

Jets get Kane back for brief home stop against Leafs

WINNIPEG -- When the Winnipeg Jets last hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year's Eve, they held a grip on spot among the Eastern Conference's top eight clubs.

However, since the Jets (24-24-6) closed out December with a 10-3-1 run, the best month in franchise history, Winnipeg's playoff aspirations have taken several blows. The Jets managed just four wins in 13 outings in January, and have begun February with two losses in three games, including 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens this past weekend. The Jets scored just five goals during a six-game road trip that just concluded, and have had to rely on goaltenders Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason even more heavily than usual.

"Right now, there is a small margin for error," coach Claude Noel said. "There is not much room for mistakes in our game. When you put that kind of stress on [yourself], it wears on you."

Now the Jets return to Winnipeg for a one-game pit stop against the Maple Leafs before heading back to the East Coast for road meetings with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Two points against the Maple Leafs tonight is crucial for the Jets.

The eighth-place Ottawa Senators are seven points ahead of the Jets, while the Leafs are eight points ahead. Capturing the Southeast Division might be the Jets' best hope, but Winnipeg now sits five points behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who play at Washington tonight. The Florida-Washington head-to-head matchup means that the Southeast Division leader will own at least 60 points after tonight.

Winnipeg received some good news that leading goal scorer Evander Kane should return to the lineup after a concussion led to a seven-game absence. Kane is expected to skate on the left side of a line with Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood.

"Sometimes when you're out it enables you to reflect and bring some enthusiasm to the game," Noel said. "I think he will be enthusiastic about playing and being back with his teammates again. He will be a welcome addition to us."

Tim Stapleton will miss his eight straight game due to injury, but his return is expected to be soon.

Pavelec will start in net.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg:

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

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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