COYOTES (27-21-10) at JETS (28-26-6)
TV: FS-A, TSN-JETS
Last 10: Phoenix 4-5-1; Winnipeg 6-3-1
Season series: This is the second of three games between the Phoenix Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets. The teams last played Jan. 11 in Winnipeg when the Jets used five unanswered goals to cruise to a 5-1 win in coach Paul Maurice's debut with the team.
Big story: Evander Kane will return to the Jets' lineup for the first time in a month after missing six games with a hand injury. Kane, who skated on a line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler at practice Wednesday, ranks third on the team with 15 goals despite playing only 42 games.
Coyotes: Phoenix goalie Mike Smith came back from Sochi with a gold medal although he didn't see any playing time for Canada. Smith had allowed four goals in four starts before the Olympic break and looks to stay hot.
"I was feeling pretty confident about my game before I left. I was able to see some of the best shooters in the world when I was over there for two weeks, so I hope to start back up where I left when I went away to the Olympics," Smith said after practice Tuesday. "There's a big push now. We know where we are in the standings and every game is going to be important."
The Coyotes, who have 24 games remaining, are one of many teams fighting for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"There's probably about 10 or 12 teams that are in the same boat as we are. Trying to preserve a playoff spot, trying to get into the playoffs," coach Dave Tippet said. "It's going to be a scramble as we go down and every game is going to be important."
Jets: The Jets will play 12 of their final 22 games at home. They are 4-1-0 at MTS Centre since Maurice was named coach Jan. 12.
"I love playing at home. We need to be good at home. It's one of our advantages," Maurice said after practice Wednesday. "Is there a little more pressure playing at home? Sure, but that's a good thing. This is a great place to play. We would prefer to play 82 of them at home."
Defenseman Mark Stuart said despite playing better over the past month, there is still work to be done to make a playoff run.
"We're looking at this last quarter of the season as a long playoff series and I think we are just really excited to get out there and play," Stuart said. "We are well aware of how many points we need and how many games we probably have to win, but I don't think we are thinking about that going into [the game Thursday]."
Who's hot: Jets forward Blake Wheeler has four assists in three games. Andrew Ladd has a five-game point streak (two goals, four assists). … Smith has a .960 save percentage over his past four games for the Coyotes.
Injury report: Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris (upper body) is questionable. … Jets forward Jim Slater (hernia) also returns Thursday, while Matt Halischuk (forearm) and defenseman Grant Clitsome (back) are on injured reserve. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom (lower body) is probable.
|Back to top|