WINNIPEG -- The San Jose Sharks have an opportunity to edge closer to the Stanley Cup Playoff line in the Western Conference when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
The Sharks begin a seven-game road trip five points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the playoffs in the Western Conference. San Jose is also five points behind the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific Division.
Winnipeg trails Los Angeles by one point for the second wild card.
But if the Sharks are to catch the Kings or Flames, first they must pass the Jets. After the game Tuesday, the Sharks do not play a Western Conference team in playoff contention until the final game of the season, April 11 at Los Angeles.
"Tonight will be even better if we win because it [would go from a potential six-point gap] to two points," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said.
"I think they've done a great job of fitting in," said right wing Blake Wheeler, Stempniak's new linemate. "Our system is pretty simple, pretty basic. It really relies on your work ethic, and we've got a lot of new guys that obviously like to work."
The Jets activated Wheeler from injured reserve Sunday and assigned forward Carl Klingberg to St. John's of the American Hockey League. Wheeler had missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury.
Winnipeg did not hold a morning skate Sunday, but Wheeler practiced Saturday on the Jets' third line with center Adam Lowry and left wing Chris Thorburn. The 28-year-old has 16 goals and 28 assists, and his 44 points rank third among all Winnipeg scorers.
Winnipeg has a one-point lead on the Minnesota Wild for the first Western Conference wild-card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Jets finish their four-game homestand Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators before beginning a four-game road trip.
Tlusty arrived in Winnipeg shortly before the morning skate and likely will skate on the second line with center Mark Scheifele and Stafford.
"[The whirlwind] was a little wild, but it is part of it and it's kind of fun too," said Tlusty, who had 13 goals and 10 assists with Carolina this season. "It's great to be here. When I heard the news I was really excited. Leaving [Carolina] was hard but I'm really excited to be here and part of the Jets."
WINNIPEG -- The struggling Winnipeg Jets will have two more problems when they host the Dallas Stars at MTS Centre on Tuesday.
The Jets will be without right wing Blake Wheeler and defenseman Ben Chiarot as they try to fend off a host of competitors chasing them for the first Western Conference wild-card berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wheeler (lower body) will miss his first game of the season. Right wing Michael Frolik will replace Wheeler on Winnipeg's top line, alongside left wing Andrew Ladd and center Bryan Little.
"[Wheeler] has that speed and that big body," Little said. "[Frolik] is a hard worker and I like that. He plays simple [and] up-and-down [hockey]. I kind of know what to expect. They are different styles but I think that they suit everybody's game in different ways."
WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets' fortunes this week might test general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's steadfast commitment to a long-term draft-and-develop philosophy.
The Jets' 4-6-3 record since Jan. 27 has jeopardized what once appeared to be a very solid grip on a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. Winnipeg's skid has allowed what was an eight-point cushion on a Western Conference wild-card position to dwindle to three points.
Winnipeg's roster sustained another blow Monday with the announcement that rookie defenseman Ben Chiarot will be out for most of the regular season. Chiarot had surgery Sunday after injuring himself in a fight with Daniel Winnik of the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss.
The announcement that the Jets could be without left wing Mathieu Perreault until the end of the regular season further complicated Cheveldayoff's roster. Perreault, who sustained a lower-body injury in a 5-4 shootout win against the Edmonton Oilers, has helped to anchor the second line with center Mark Scheifele and ranks third on Winnipeg with 18 goals.
Right wing Drew Stafford was injured against Edmonton and is day-to-day. Cheveldayoff acquired Stafford from the Buffalo Sabres in the Evander Kane trade on Feb. 11. Stafford immediately solidified the top-six forward group and had been promoted to the top line before sustaining his upper-body injury
The Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at MTS Centre on Monday, their lone home game in a stretch of five games. Winnipeg returns home after a 1-1-0 road trip that finished with a 5-4 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Another two-game trip begins Thursday against the Washington Capitals.
A six-game winning streak has moved Minnesota to within six points of Winnipeg in the Central Division. The Wild, who defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 at home Monday, have three games in hand on the Jets. Winnipeg holds the first Western Conference wild-card berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ended a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) with a 5-3 home win against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
The Wild did not have a morning skate after an early-morning arrival in Winnipeg; however, they did make two roster changes Tuesday.
Left wings Ryan Carter and Jason Zucker were placed on injured reserve after they sustained upper-body injuries against Vancouver. To replace them the Wild recalled defenseman Stu Bickel and forward Brett Sutter from Iowa of the American Hockey League. Sutter has three assists in five NHL games this season.
Right wing Justin Fontaine, who has not played since Jan. 29, could dress and fill one of the forward roles.
It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.
— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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