WASHINGTON – The Winnipeg Jets will look to narrow the gap in the Southeast Division on Thursday night when they visit the first-place Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.
The Caps took over first place with a 4-0 win Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. Washington is one point clear of Florida and four points up on Winnipeg.
“It’s actually pretty close to the exact same thing we faced Tuesday,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “This is a team that is just behind us and if they win they’re going to be pretty close, but if we win we can really put some distance.”
Laich’s point is not lost on a Jets team that one year ago today was one point out of a playoff position. The Atlanta Thrashers struggled down the stretch though, winning 10 of their final 26 games before finishing 13 points out of a playoff berth.
“We don’t want to have that same lull that we had last year,” Jets forward Evander Kane said. “I think if you look at this last half of the month for us, it could be a deciding factor for our season and that starts here tonight… It’s a big game and we need the two points real bad.”
Kane returned to the Jets lineup Tuesday in a 2-1 win over Toronto after missing seven games with a concussion.
The 20-year-old continues to lead Winnipeg with 18 goals despite going 11 straight games without finding the back of the net. Kane’s Winnipeg teammates haven’t done much better of late.
The Jets have scored just eight goals in their last seven games and have gone 0-for-17 on the power play during the stretch. Winnipeg is also last in the Eastern Conference, averaging 2.34 goals-per-game.
“It’s on the offensive side of the puck where our players have to get better,” Jets coach Claude Noel said. “I don’t think it’s so much a team thing, I think it’s an execution thing on the power play and from the standpoint of individual players I think there are a lot of people who would like to get going.”
Noel singled out former Capitals forward Eric Fehr among those he would like to see produce more. Fehr has one goal and one assist in 30 games this season.
“I’m hoping that he has enthusiasm in the game and I’m hoping that he wants some form of maybe redemption [playing against his former team tonight],” Noel said. “I’d like to see him create a little bit more offensively and get his shot off – we haven’t seen too much of that and I think it’s something we need to see more of.”