WINNIPEG -- The end is not yet here for the Winnipeg Jets, but it certainly looms near.
A 1-2-0 road trip last week through Pittsburgh, Washington and Nashville dented the Jets' Stanley Cup Playoff aspirations severely. A loss tonight against the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre would spell near-certain doom for the Jets (35-32-8), who have seven games left in the regular season entering tonight's game. Sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, the Jets trail the eighth-place Washington Capitals by six points.
"For us, you can say all the clichés, but we have to win the game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "That's clear for us."
The Jets' fourth line featuring recent AHL recalls Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell, plus Tim Stapleton, carried them on the road trip. Stapleton holds a three-game goal streak, Machacek has 1 goal and 6 points in four games since his recall, and Maxwell has 1 goal and 4 points in his past three games. However, captain Andrew Ladd, leading goal-scorer Evander Kane, and Blake Wheeler all failed to produce a goal during the road swing, and Noel expects to his use his fourth line more.
"They've been really good, given minimal minutes," Noel said of his fourth line. "I don't know if they continue at that rate, but there is no reason why I can't play them more in games, especially if things don't go the same with other lines, because you can't be a one-line team.
"You've got to give [the fourth line] full marks," Noel said. "My hat goes off to those guys."
Nik Antropov and Chris Thorburn remain sidelined with injuries.
Ondrej Pavelec will make his 12th consecutive start for the Jets.
Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwell - Spencer Machacek
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart