WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Winnipeg Jets make their season debut in the American capital tonight for a Thanksgiving Eve date with the Washington Capitals.
The 8-9-3 Jets arrived in Washington on Tuesday a hot team after sweeping a three-game homestand against the Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers last week. The Jets took a 4-1 decision from the Capitals last Thursday night at the MTS Centre to up their record against Southeast Division opponents to 4-2-0 this season.
Tonight's game is the start of a three-game East Coast tour that will continue Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes before a Saturday meeting with the Boston Bruins.
Among the Jets' hot scoring hands are captain Andrew Ladd, Kyle Wellwood, Bryan Little and Evander Kane, who all hold three-game scoring streaks. Little posted a two-goal game last Saturday in a win over Philadelphia, and Kane notched two goals in the win over the Capitals last week.
But coach Claude Noel expects to see a much better Washington team than the club he saw last week.
"I don't think we saw their complete 'A' game,” Noel said. "You've got to be careful. You can't play these guys lightly."
The Jets will welcome back the services of veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey, who missed 16 games since suffering an upper-body injury on Oct. 17. Hainsey's return one game after Eric Fehr's return to action is another piece of good medical news for the Jets, who have lost 96 man-games to injury this season already.
Hainsey should offer the Jets some further defensive backbone, but he will have a difficult opponent to match up against in his return from injury.
"If you give them space and a little bit of time," Hainsey said of the Capitals, "these guys can pick you apart."
Hainsey's return should also help reduce the workload of Zach Bogosian, who logged a season-high 31 minutes of ice time against Philadelphia. Hainsey can play in all situations.
"It gives a little bit more comfort," Noel said of Hainsey returning.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to make his career-high 13th consecutive start in net for the Jets after delivering a 32-save effort last week against Washington.
Here is the projected lineup for Winnipeg tonight:
Andrew Ladd - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Alexander Burmistrov - Bryan Little - Evander Kane
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Jason Jaffray - Tim Stapleton - Blake Wheeler
Mark Stuart - Dustin Byfuglien
Johnny Oduya - Zach Bogosian
Ron Hainsey - Mark Flood
Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets, with Chris Mason backing up.