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Clinton's Five Storylines - WPG @ MIN

Jets at season's halfway mark; reflecting on this season's success against Minnesota

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild face-off in the third meeting of the season between the two clubs.

Here are the Five Storylines:

THIRD TIME OUT

The Jets have won both previous meetings between the two clubs this season, outscoring the Wild 11-2.

In the most recent match-up, a 6-0 Jets win at Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota product Blake Wheeler took over the Jets franchise lead in points and Connor Hellebuyck recorded his 17th career shutout to tie the franchise lead.

But with the Wild only four points back of the Jets in the Central Division and wildcard standings, the Jets won't be relying on past success to carry them on Saturday.

"I'm prepared for a second half of answering a lot of questions about 'how big was that win?' and 'how tough was that loss?'" Head coach Paul Maurice said. "Everyone is dealing with that in the last 41 (games). This is going to be a sprint."

BOUNCING BACK

Winnipeg is coming off a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell MTS Place on Thursday. The setback came just two days after a spirited 7-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.

"The guys that were maybe off a little bit in the Toronto game, we were so excited about after the Colorado game," said Maurice. "I like our compete an awful lot. I like the way they treat each other. I like the way the bench goes."

The loss to Toronto was Winnipeg's third straight against an Eastern Conference opponent. Over the course of this four-game road trip, the Jets will face three opponents from the East, but on Saturday afternoon, the Jets put their 7-4-2 record against divisional opponents on the line against the Wild, who are 3-8-1 against the Central this season.

HALFWAY MARK

At the halfway mark of the season, the Jets have a record of 22-16-3, putting them in fourth spot in the Central Division and in the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

While they're 1-2-1 since the holiday break, Patrik Laine knows the kind of hockey the Jets are capable of. Especially after a franchise record setting 10 wins in the month of November.

"We want to win more games. Lately it's been a little bit tougher," said Laine. "We've played some good hockey but we haven't seen the results we want. Overall I think it has been a really positive first half, but there is still a lot of room to improve."

Saturday's afternoon start could be just what the Jets need. Winnipeg has won six of the seven matinee affairs they've had so far his season.

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS

With Kyle Connor's goal on Thursday night, the Jets now have 11 power play goals in their last 11 games.

During that stretch, they've gone 11-for-35 (31.4 per cent) which is the third best in the NHL since December 8.

Connor, along with his linemates Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, have been a dominant trio since coming back from the holiday break.

In the four games the team has played, that line has combined for 19 points, including Connor's second career hat trick - which came in the win over Colorado.

"They're starting to play off each other differently than they did at the start, by far," said Maurice. "At first, there were plays to be made that they didn't quite complete. Then they started making some plays but they're still trying to figure out 'when this happens, I'll be here.' That kind of thing, playing off each other. 

"I think Colorado and certainly the St. Louis game, they're starting to get to places with all that non-verbal communication."

QUESTION MARKS

With Nathan Beaulieu out for at least a month with a lower-body injury, the Jets recalled Sami Niku from the Manitoba Moose on Thursday afternoon. 

Niku has 14 points in 18 games with the Moose, but left with an injury on November 27 and didn't play another game until December 29.

He had two assists in Manitoba's 4-3 win over Rockford on New Year's Eve, but Maurice hasn't confirmed when the 23-year-old will come into the Jets line-up. With no morning skate ahead of the 1 pm CT puck drop against the Wild, warm-up may be the best indication on if Maurice has changed his line-up.

"(The injury) wasn't a bad finger where you can skate him into the ice. He just couldn't do a heck of a lot," said Maurice.

"He's trying to get up to NHL speed in the practices. We're going to see him sooner rather than later, unless we get on some kind of run. We still haven't made our line-up based on other issues that we're dealing with on our back end for tomorrow. We're going to want to get him up to speed and get him in pretty quick."

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