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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:08 PM

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

Wild aim for eighth straight road win

WINNIPEG -- The Minnesota Wild will attempt to set a new franchise mark for consecutive road wins with eight when they head north to the unfriendly confines of the MTS Centre.

Minnesota's 20 wins and 43 points lead the NHL, and the club is off to its best start in franchise history. The Wild also own a seven-game winning streak after knocking off the Phoenix Coyotes on the road Saturday night, 4-1. Kyle Brodziak chipped in two power-play goals against the Coyotes and now leads all Minnesota scorers with 10 goals.

Tonight's meeting is the first look at what will be a new conference rivalry come next season. Minnesota and Winnipeg are each other's closest geographic rivals.

The Wild will regain the services of left wing Guillaume Latendresse, whom they activated from injured reserve this morning after a 15-game absence. Latendresse last played on Nov. 10 at San Jose. However, center Matt Cullen will not play after being sidelined by illness.

Defensemen Marek Zidlicky (concussion) and Justin Falk (upper body) remain out for Minnesota, as does right wing Devin Setoguchi (lower body) Right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, will draw back into the Minnesota line-up.

WILD
Guillaume Latendresse - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Casey Wellman - Kyle Brodziak - Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Nick Johnson - Darroll Powe - Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies - Cody Almond - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Mike Lundin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner - Greg Zanon

Niklas Backstrom
Matt Hackett

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Posted On Friday, 12.09.2011 / 2:56 PM

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

Canes coming off big win, trade

WINNIPEG -- A major trade on Friday quickly overshadowed one of the biggest wins of the season for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Defenseman Tomas Kaberle headed out of town on Friday morning after the Hurricanes shipped him to the Montreal Canadiens for fellow Czech defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller expects Spacek to draw into the Carolina lineup tonight after his arrival in Winnipeg this afternoon.

Kaberle had contributed 2 assists in the team's most recent outing, a 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers that broke a streak of seven consecutive losses (0-6-1). The Hurricanes traveled to Winnipeg immediately after the game and enjoyed a day off yesterday.

The Hurricanes have discovered an offensive side on this week's tour of Western Canada, having picked up 11 goals in games against the Oilers and Calgary FlamesTuomo Ruutu and Chad Larose both own two-game goal streaks, and Jamie McBain has picked up points in his last three contests (3-2-5).

With a regular-season contest as well as a preseason date already in Winnipeg, the Hurricanes are most familiar with the MTS Centre's unwelcoming environment for visiting teams. The Jets have fed off that home-ice advantage and have taken six of their last seven games at home.

"We have to be ready for the start," Muller said. "We have to be ready for a team that goes after you."

Muller has stressed a more up-tempo system since taking over behind the Carolina bench on Nov. 28. The win against the Oilers was perhaps the first sign that the new system is beginning to take root with the Hurricanes.

"We want to go after them," captain Eric Staal said of the Jets. "They're an up-tempo team, too, and if you let them initiate their forecheck, get in there and use their skill, they'll capitalize. For us, I think we want to initiate."

The Hurricanes will continue on to Toronto after tonight's game and spend three days there before their game with the Maple Leafs next Tuesday night.

Here is what the Hurricanes lineup likely will look like:

HURRICANES
Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Jiri Tlusty - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Andreas Nodl - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Bryan Allen - Derek Joslin
Tim Gleason - Justin Faulk
Jamie McBain - Jaroslav Spacek

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes, with Mike Murphy backing up.
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Posted On Friday, 12.09.2011 / 2:34 PM

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

Jets know they can't overlook Hurricanes

WINNIPEG -- A classic "trap" game awaits the Winnipeg Jets tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes arrive in town.

The 12-11-4 Jets took their most impressive win of the season so far on Tuesday night when they beat the Boston Bruins, 2-1, at the MTS Centre to break Boston's streak of 15 games without a regulation defeat. The Jets are now on a 7-2-1 run in their last 10 games, have won three straight and have taken six of their last seven home outings. And tomorrow, the Jets skate in Detroit against the Red Wings, who hold the Western Conference's fourth spot.

In between the Bruins and the Red Wings are the 9-17-4 Hurricanes, who continue their midseason shake-up under new coach Kirk Muller. Jets coach Claude Noel is fully aware of the perils of overlooking the Hurricanes.

"We're certainly going to be aware of Carolina," Noel said. "I'm not taking them lightly, especially after the [Tomas Kaberle-Jaroslav Spacek] deal they made today. That will get the attention of the players."

"They're in a little bit of turmoil," Noel said of Carolina. "They're trying to reorganize and re-shuffle. They'll be ready to play. We'll have to be ready to go."

Goaltender Chris Mason will see action for only the sixth time this season for the Jets, as he will spell workhorse partner Ondrej Pavelec tonight. Mason last played two weeks ago when he led the Jets to a 3-1 win against the Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Nov. 25.

Mason's only other win this season also came at Carolina's expense when he relieved Pavelec at the MTS Centre in a 5-3 decision over the Hurricanes on Oct. 22.

The Jets also expect to regain the services of center Nik Antropov, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury sustained on Nov. 29 against Ottawa. Randy Jones, who has missed 15 consecutive games since taking a shot to his foot on Nov. 3, is also expected to re-enter the Winnipeg defensive rotation in place of Arturs Kulda.

Here are tonight's projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg.

JETS

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

Johnny Oduya - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Randy Jones - Mark Flood

Chris Mason will start for the Jets, with Ondrej Pavelec backing up.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:23 PM

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

Jets happy with next season's conference lineup

WINNIPEG -- No team in the NHL is more geographically displaced this season than the Winnipeg Jets.

Jets players and coaches roundly supported last night's realignment decision that is expected to move the club out of the Southeast Division for the 2012-13 season. Next season Winnipeg will play in a conference with the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.

Minnesota is the Jets' nearest geographic rival and should allow fans to make the seven-hour car trip for road games next season. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is a Winnipeg product, and the Blue Jackets have former Winnipeg Jet Scott Arniel manning their bench.

While the Jets have the benefit this season of frequent travel to warmer climates for road games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, next season's schedule should ease the Jets' travel burden.

The Jets also have three Minnesota products on their roster, and a chance to play before family and friends at the Xcel Energy Center delighted Blake Wheeler, who also played his NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota.

"I like being in the Midwest a little more and being in the Central time zone," Wheeler said. "It'll be fun to play back home a little more often, and more specifically, for our travel, it's going to be huge to play the majority of our games in this area."
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:12 PM

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

Jets hoping to continue strong home play vs. Bruins

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets have pinpointed December's home-heavy slate as a critical segment of their season.

A pair of wins last week against the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils served as key points for a team looking to establish a home-ice presence in its first season at the MTS Centre.

Now the Jets, 7-4-0 at home this season, face their biggest test of the season at the MTS Centre tonight when the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins make their first visit to Winnipeg this season. The Bruins bring a 7-2-0 road mark into Winnipeg after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Monday and have not lost away from home since Oct. 29.

Jets coach Claude Noel watched a portion of last night's Bruins-Penguins game and was asked for his take on what he saw.

"I took out of it that Boston is a good team," Noel replied to laughs from the assembled media. "And I knew that before I watched that game."

"It's going to be an interesting game for us," Noel added. "They've got depth. Who doesn't scare you on that team?"

The Jets' top line of Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler continue to drive the Winnipeg offense. Kane has 6 goals in his last five games, 9 goals and 12 points in his last nine games, and owns a five-game point-scoring streak. Wheeler and Little, two important cogs who experienced very slow starts to their seasons, have four- and three-game point streaks, respectively.

"They've got some size on that line, especially on the wings," Noel said of his top trio.

The line has been defensively reliable, and Noel surmises that Kane has helped to draw out the speed Little and Wheeler possess.

"I didn't see the speed in Wheeler and Little before that I do now," he said. "It's been a really good asset for us."

Ondrej Pavelec will start in net for Winnipeg tonight, the 18th time in the team's last 19 games that he will received the starting nod.

Forwards Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr remain sidelined by injury and will not dress, while defensemen Ron Hainsey, Derek Meech, Randy Jones and Tobias Enstrom also are out with injuries.

The Jets returned defenseman Brett Festerling to the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League and reclaimed center Ben Maxwell on waivers from the Anaheim Ducks and assigned him to St. John's.

Here are tonight’s projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg.

Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater- Chris Thorburn
Jason Jaffray - Tim Stapleton - Carl Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Arturs Kulda - Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets, with Chris Mason backing up.

With the Bruins having played last night, they didn't skate today. If they don't change things -- and with their current 14-0-1 stretch, why would they? -- here's what their lineup could look like:

Tyler Seguin - Patrice Bergeron - Brad Marchand
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

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

With Tim Thomas starting last night, it's likely he'll be the backup and Tuukka Rask will start tonight.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.03.2011 / 2:09 PM

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

Devils have quick turnaround, look to end slide

WINNIPEG – The Devils arrived in Winnipeg late after a 4-2 road loss Friday night against the Minnesota Wild, their third consecutive loss. Minnesota knocked starting goaltender Martin Brodeur out of the game with three goals on four shots, and Johan Hedberg finished the game. The defeat wasted a multi-point effort from Zach Parise and Adam Henrique extending his scoring streak to four games.

After the game Saturday, New Jersey will wrap up a four-game stretch away from home Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs before returning to Newark for a pair of home dates.

The late arrival into Winnipeg meant that the Devils did not hold a morning skate. Hedberg is expected to start against the Jets, according to Tom Gulitti of The Record.

Travis Zajac (Achilles’ tendon) and Jacob Josefson (clavicle) both remain sidelined with long-term injuries. Rod Pelley did not dress against Minnesota – the 10th time in the Devils' last 11 games that he has been a healthy scratch.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.03.2011 / 2:06 PM

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

Jets in midst of critical home stretch

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets know that December will go a long way toward deciding whether they are a team able to make a legitimate second-half push for a playoff berth.

The Jets (10-11-4) are in the midst of a stretch of 12 of 14 games on MTS Centre ice, where they have a 6-4-0 mark and are taking steps toward establishing a home-ice presence. After a lethargic 6-4 loss Tuesday to the Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg turned in a strong 1-0 effort against the Phoenix Coyotes two days later. Moreover, a club that has allowed the most opposing power plays this season spotted the Coyotes just two man-advantages.

“[Tonight’s] game is going to be important for us,” coach Claude Noel said. “We had a good game last time. Is this what we are?”

Ondrej Pavelec, who collected his second shutout of the season in a 33-save gem Thursday, will start in the Winnipeg net again tonight, the 17th time in the Jets’ past 18 games that he has started.

The Jets’ line of Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler is finding chemistry after all three players endured slow starts to their respective seasons. Little scored the only goal Thursday night and now has five goals and nine points in his past eight outings. Kane is on a four-game point streak and Wheeler has picked up points in his last three contests.

The Jets will have an off-day Sunday before a Tuesday home date with the Boston Bruins.

“It would be nice to go into that day off feeling good about things,” Noel said.

Here are tonight’s projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg.

JETS

Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner GlassJim Slater- Chris Thorburn
Jason JaffrayTim StapletonCarl Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Arturs Kulda - Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets, with Chris Mason backing up.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 2:14 PM

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

Jets look to rebound, plus a look at their lines

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets began a long home stretch on Tuesday night looking to set a tone for December’s home-heavy slate.

But a sloppy 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre that began a run of 13 of 15 games on home ice left coach Claude Noel exasperated. The Jets blew a third-period lead to the Senators and reverted to many of the same bad habits that had plagued them earlier this season.

Still, Noel chose not to dwell on the loss and put the Jets through only a light workout on Wednesday morning.

“For us, I think that we move past [Tuesday’s loss],” Noel said. “We’ve got to play with some good energy tonight.”

The Jets still saw some fall-out from the loss on Wednesday when the club recalled 20-year-old left wing Carl Klingberg from St. John’s of the American League. Klingberg, a 2009 second-round pick, ranked second on the IceCaps with 9-7-16 numbers. Klingberg is expected to dress for tonight’s game.

The Jets remain without the services of defensemen Tobias Enstrom, Brett Festerling, Ron Hainsey, Randy Jones and Derek Meech, who are all on injured reserve. Center Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr are both banged up and will be game-time decisions.

Here are tonight's projected lines and pairings for the Jets.

JETS
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Alexander Burmistrov - Eric Fehr
Carl Klingberg - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Mark Stuart - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Arturs Kulda - Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets, with Chris Mason backing up.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.01.2011 / 2:01 PM

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

Turris could make season debut for Coyotes tonight

WINNIPEG -- Sub-freezing temperatures awaited the Phoenix Coyotes when they arrived in Winnipeg late Wednesday night.

Whether the reception from the boisterous 15,004 fans that fill the MTS Centre every night will provide the Coyotes an equally cold reception remains to be seen.

The Coyotes arrived in their ancestral home in possession of a two-game winning streak and will play a Winnipeg Jets club that they beat 4-1 in their home-opener, back on Oct. 15.

After netting just one goal in his first nine games, Radim Vrbata has exploded offensively for the Coyotes, scoring 11 goals in his past 14 games. Tuesday in Chicago, Vrbata had a goal and an assist, his sixth multi-point game this season.

The Coyotes have excelled away from home this season en route to producing the Western Conference’s second-best road mark (7-3-1). They've allowed only 19 goals in their past 10 road games.

"The basic premise is that we all have to play together or we are not going to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Our players have bought into that. I've liked that we've played a real good team game the past few games."

Tippett indicated that there is a possibility that center Kyle Turris could make his season debut tonight.

Here are Phoenix's projected lines and pairings for tonight:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Kyle Chipchura/Kyle Turris - Patrick O'Sullivan

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - David Schlemko

Mike Smith will start in net for Phoenix, with Jason LaBarbera the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 2:32 PM

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

Jets begin stretch of 13 out of 15 games at home

WINNIPEG -- Tonight's home date with the Ottawa Senators begins a stretch of 13 of 15 games on MTS Centre ice for the Winnipeg Jets.

The home-heavy holiday schedule will be a change for the 9-10-4 Jets, who have opened this season with 15 of their first 23 games on the road in going 4-7-4 away from Winnipeg. The Jets will welcome in the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday and receive a visit from the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

Home ice has been kind to the Jets this month, the club having swept a homestand from Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia earlier this month in convincing fashion. The Jets followed up that effort with a 1-1-1 swing through Washington, Carolina and Boston last week. The Jets, whose 25.1-percent conversion rate on the power play at home ranks second in the NHL, rang up a 6-for-15 performance on the power play in those three home games before going scoreless on the man-advantage last week on the road.

The Jets are coming off a 4-2 loss on Saturday night to the Boston Bruins after surrendering four unanswered goals to spoil another strong performance from workhorse goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

The Jets' blue line continues to battle injury woes. Ron Hainsey will miss his 18th game out of Winnipeg's past 19. Tobias Enstrom, Brett Festerling, Randy Jones and Derek Meech all remain on injured reserve for the Jets, who have lost 113 man-games to injury this season.

Here are tonight's projected lines and pairings for the Jets.

JETS
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Alexander Burmistrov - Eric Fehr
Jason Jaffray - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Mark Stuart - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Arturs Kulda - Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start for the Jets, with Chris Mason backing up.
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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff