WINNIPEG -- A season-high eight-game homestand stretching over three weeks will likely determine whether or not the Winnipeg Jets are a playoff team this season.
After taking a 4-3 shootout win on the road over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, the Jets (27-26-6) returned home and will meet the Boston Bruins tonight at the MTS Centre. The first step in this eight-game stretch will involve the Jets confronting two of the demons that have tormented this season -- games on consecutive nights and an inability to hold leads against the Bruins.
Winnipeg sits five points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead and four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the eighth-place slot in the Eastern Conference. The ninth-place Washington Capitals sit between the Jets and both the Panthers and the Maple Leafs. Tonight's Washington-Florida game will ensure that at least one of the Capitals or Panthers will earn points tonight, making this game all the more critical for Winnipeg.
The Jets are 0-9-0 this season in back-to-back games, and coach Claude Noel turned tense when asked about his club's struggles.
"We'd like to change that if we could," Noel replied. "That's about all I have to say."
As well, the Jets have surrendered leads in both of their visits this year to Boston, including a third-period lead on Jan. 10 in which the Bruins scorched the Jets for three goals in a 6:41 third-period span.
"They're a really good third-period team," Noel said of the Bruins, "and we witnessed that first-hand when they took over a game in Boston. We have a lot of respect for what they do and what they're about."
Zach Bogosian, who missed Thursday's game due to injury, is not expected to return to the Winnipeg blue line tonight. Randy Jones will again play in place of Bogosian.
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
Johnny Oduya - Ron Hainsey
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart