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