CHICAGO, Illinois - Following three straight losses on home ice, the Winnipeg Jets now begin a four-game road trip tonight in Chicago against the Blackhawks - and Andrew Copp was concise in what he wants to see from his team tonight.
"We just have to get better, flat out. We haven't been playing with enough conviction, enough sense of urgency in our game," said Copp. "It's not about anybody we're playing against. It's all about our game and how we attack each game and each shift."
At 45-29-4, the Jets still hold down top spot in the Central Division, but have seen their four-point cushion over the Nashville Predators disappear.
The Jets remain a confident group as they head out on the road. In fact, a victory tonight would not only help in the standings, it would also be the team's 21st road win - which would set a new franchise record.
Video: PREGAME | Andrew Copp
In order to achieve that and a valuable two points, the Jets have to get back to playing the way they did to clinch a playoff spot just over a week ago.
"You have to close on your guy, willing to be in front of lanes. Be in the right spot, be willing to come back hard so you're in a position to close the gap on your man," said Copp.
"We have to come back harder and stride to our man, not give them time and space to play on. This is a team that will beat you if you give them time and space."
Head coach Paul Maurice won't make any tweaks to the line-up that dropped a 3-1 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday:
Byfuglien played 24:24 against the Canadiens in his first game since Feb. 14. He said while it's always special to come back to the building he played in for five seasons with the Blackhawks, his focus is on helping the Jets sweep the season series with Chicago.
"Tonight is a new night," said Byfuglien.
"We have our work cut out for us. You look at our next opponents, everyone is battling. We're going to have to come out here and start doing the right things. Hopefully we can get back on the winning side."
Video: PREGAME | Dustin Byfuglien
Chicago is back home for the first time in a week following a three-game road trip that saw them go 1-1-1. The final stop was a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings, which puts the Blackhawks six points back of the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
"We have a challenge. Everybody who has been in the game long enough has been in Chicago's situation where you need the win. You get to the point where it's a desperation game for them," said Maurice.
"I don't feel we're far off it in our block of games. But clearly there is something missing in our last three that we need to get back - a little bit of that drive."
Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks in points with 105, just one off his career high of 106 set in 2015-16. Meanwhile Jonathan Toews has matched his career high of 76 points (set in 2010-11) with four games left in Chicago's regular season schedule.
Video: PREGAME | Nathan Beaulieu
But Jets defenceman Nathan Beaulieu is aware that the threats on the Chicago roster run much deeper than just two players.
"They're very highly skilled. They know how to win and they've had a lot of success here in the past. Limiting their time and space is probably the most important thing to do," said Beaulieu.
"There are no easy games in the NHL. They're obviously a lot tougher this time of year. It's a good challenge for us. Going into the playoffs this is the mentality it's going to be."
Connor Hellebuyck was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to get the start in goal for the Jets, while Corey Crawford gets the call for Chicago.
Puck drop is set for 7:30 pm CT.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
Josh Morrissey participated in the morning skate in a non-contact jersey as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury he sustained just prior to the trade deadline.
Maurice said the defenceman is making great progress, but the coach is in no rush to get him into a regular season game before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
"We'll take the extra three or four days rest," said Maurice. "He's been training real hard. He says he feels great and his legs feel great. We want to make sure we maximize that so we wouldn't have to worry about it."
Laurent Brossoit is in the same boat, as the goaltender came on the ice after the formal part of the morning skate had concluded to work with Wade Flaherty.
"He's not far off but there's no reason for us to put him in the line-up," said Maurice. "Our expectation is that come next Wednesday or Thursday that he'll be ready to go. There's always a chance things don't heal, but our expectation is he'll be 100 per cent soon."
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets begin their final road trip of the regular season tonight when they meet the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center...The Jets are coming off a 1-3 record during four-game homestand, which ended with a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night...Winnipeg continues the road trip tomorrow against the Minnesota Wild.
The Jets have clinched their spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs...It's the first time in franchise history that the Jets have reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons...If the playoffs started today, the Jets would host the Dallas Stars, who hold the Western Conference's first wild card spot, in the first round of the playoffs.
Tomorrow and tomorrow marks the last of nine back-to-back sets the Jets have this season...Winnipeg is an even 5-3-0 in the first game and 5-3-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season...Last season, the Jets went 4-3-2 in the first game of nine back-to-backs and 4-4-1 in the second game.
On the Road
Winnipeg is 20-17-0 on the road this season, which has tied a franchise record for most wins in a season from the 2014-15 and 2018-19 seasons...The Jets have won two of their past three road games...Winnipeg hasn't lost three consecutive road games in regulation since Dec. 10-20/16...Winnipeg is 13-for-14 (92.9%) on the penalty kill in its past five road games...The Jets have scored 29 goals in their past nine road games...Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in scoring on the road this season with 38 points (10G, 28A) in 37 games...Patrik Laine leads the Jets with 19 goals on the road.
The Jets are 12-11-0 against Central Division teams this season...Winnipeg is 3-6 in their past nine games against Central Division teams and all three wins have come against Nashville (Jan. 17 at NSH 5-1 W, Mar. 1 vs. NSH 5-3 W, and Mar. 23 vs. NSH 5-0 W)...The last time the Jets beat a Central Division opponent that isn't Nashville was Jan. 8 when they beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-4 at Bell MTS Place...Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Jets are 46-28-4 against Central Division teams, which is second in the NHL...In that same time frame, Blake Wheeler leads all NHLers in scoring against the Central Division with 97 points (28G, 69A) in 78 games, while Mark Scheifele is third with 89 points (36G, 53A) in 70 games.
Bring on April
Dating back to Apr. 3/16, the Jets have won 12 consecutive regular season games in April...Eight of the 12 wins have been by one goal, including two in overtime and one in a shootout...The Jets are unbeaten in regulation in their past 20 regular season games in April, going 18-0-2 since Apr. 10/14...Blake Wheeler leads current Jets in career scoring in April with 50 points (22G, 28A) in 54 games, while Mark Scheifele is averaging a point per game with 17 points (6G, 11A) in 17 games.
VIEW FULL GAME NOTES
Blake Wheeler had an assist on Thursday to reach 69 assists this season, which ties Marc Savard's franchise record for most assists in a season from the 2005-06 season...His assist on Thursday ended a four-game pointless streak...With 89 points (20G, 69A), Wheeler is guaranteed to have better than a point per game this season for the second consecutive season... Wheeler has scored 20 goals or more in six consecutive seasons...During the past four seasons, Wheeler's 237 assists are second most in the NHL.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba has eight assists in his past seven games to reach 40 assists in a season for the first time in his career...Trouba leads Jets defencemen in scoring with a career-high 47 points (6G, 41A) and has a career-high 0.60 points per game.
Marching into Form
Connor Hellebuyck had his most successful month of the season in March with a .926 save percentage in 12 games...He posted a pair of shutouts (Mar. 20 at ANA 3-0 W and Mar. 23 vs. NSH 5-0 W) and faced 35 shots or more in seven of his 12 games.