GLENDALE, Arizona - For just the third time in National Hockey League history, three teams have a shot at a division title heading into game 82.
The Central Division is up for grabs on Saturday and by the end of the night, either the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, or the St. Louis Blues will hold the crown.
The Jets sit one point back of the Predators and need to beat the Arizona Coyotes tonight - and have Nashville lose in any fashion against the Chicago Blackhawks to earn top spot in the Central.
"I think everyone knows it's there. There are three good teams right there that are all fighting for the same thing," said defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, adding he won't be scoreboard watching before the game, even though the Blues play this afternoon and the Predators get underway two hours prior to puck drop for the Jets.
"It's hard not to know. I'm sure I'll hear mumblings about it," said Beaulieu. "The ball has to be in our court first. We have to focus on what we can control."
Video: PREGAME | Nathan Beaulieu
Jets head coach Paul Maurice will go with the same line-up tonight as the one that fell 3-2 in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche two nights ago.
That includes in goal, where Connor Hellebuyck will get his 62nd start of the regular season.
"Connor misses the (Minnesota) game, now he's looking at I've got a game on Saturday, I played Thursday, if we don't start until Wednesday or Thursday - that's a week and he doesn't like that," said Maurice.
"He wants the game. He wants the whole game and for him it's rhythm. We want to keep him in that rhythm."
Based on the game against the Avalanche, the Jets line-up is expected to look like this:
Maurice liked the play of Adam Lowry's line with Jack Roslovic and Par Lindholm on Thursday night, noting they were on the ice for the shift that preceded both Jets goals in the first period.
Video: PREGAME | Kyle Connor
Both of those goals were also scored in a way consistent with how pucks find the back of the net in the postseason, according to Kyle Connor.
"You've got slot and net front. Then you're getting shots through and you get that good F3 for defensive positioning," said Connor. "It allows our D to gap up hard. We like that aspect and I think we can generate more of that."
Winnipeg's overtime loss to the Avalanche eliminated the Coyotes from the playoff race, despite the fact Arizona beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1 on that same night.
The point Colorado earned by getting the Jets to overtime put them out of reach for Arizona, but that doesn't mean the Jets won't face a challenge tonight at Gila River Arena.
"Normally you see this situation and you might think there is going to be a let down. I don't think that's the case at all," said Maurice. "These guys have had a hell of a year and they're proud of the way they played. They've earned the right to have a good feeling. They've competed hard and I don't think they've been lucky in the games they've won.
"This is a real good tune-up game for us. Sometimes you get into these games at the end of the year and the other team is out, it's not even real hockey. We're going to be in a full-on hard game tonight which will be great leading into next week."
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
Josh Morrissey took part in the morning skate in a full contact jersey for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury against the Coyotes in late February.
While he won't play tonight, Maurice said the defenceman is on track to return in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Puck drop is set for 9 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets wrap up their 2018-19 regular season schedule tonight when they play the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena...The Jets are 1-1-1 on their four-game season-ending road trip after losing 3-2 in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night...The Jets begin the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week against an opponent that is to be determined.
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...The Jets need to win tomorrow to clinch home ice in the first round of the playoffs...A win combined with a Nashville Predators loss in any fashion would give the Jets their first division title since relocation...If the playoffs started today, the Jets would host the St. Louis Blues, who are third in the Central Division, in the first round of the playoffs.
Tonight is the third of three time zones the Jets play in during their final road trip of the season...After staying in the central time zone on Monday against Chicago and Tuesday against Minnesota, the Jets played in the mountain daylight time zone on Thursday against Colorado and play in mountain standard time zone tomorrow Arizona...After staying in the central time zone for their first 10 games, the Jets will have played 26 games this season that were in a different zone time than the previous game by the time the regular season is over.
On the Road
Winnipeg is 21-18-1 on the road this season, which has set a franchise record for most road wins in a season...Winnipeg hasn't lost three consecutive road games in regulation since Dec. 10-20/16...Winnipeg is 21-for-23 (91.3%) on the penalty kill in its past eight road games...Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in scoring on the road this season with 39 points (10G, 29A) in 40 games...Patrik Laine leads the Jets with 19 goals on the road.
Party in the Pacific
The Jets are 15-6-2 against Pacific Division opponents this season, which is the most wins against the division by a team outside the division...Winnipeg has won 10 of their past 15 games against the Pacific Division...Winnipeg was a dominant 17-4-2 against Pacific Division foes last season and are on an 24-7-4 run in their last 35 games versus the Pacific...Blake Wheeler (5G, 17A) leads the Jets in scoring against the Pacific Division this season with 22 points in 23 games.
Bring on April
The Jets have lost consecutive games in April, but are 19-1-3 in their past 23 regular season games in April, dating back to Apr. 10/14...Blake Wheeler leads current Jets in career scoring in April with 51 points (22G, 29A) in 57 games.
Blake Wheeler earned his 70th assist of the season on Tuesday, which is a franchise record for most assists in a season...He has an assist in 48 of his 81 games this season...With 90 points (20G, 70A), 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 238 assists are second most in the NHL.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba had an assist on Thursday to increase his career high point total to 49 points (7G, 42A)...He needs one point to become the eighth defenceman in franchise history to record 50 points in a season...Since Mar. 18, Trouba is second on the Jets in scoring with 10 points (1G, 9A) in 10 games...He is second on the Jets with 15 power play assists this season...Trouba had 23 points (4G, 19A) in 48 games before the all-star break and has 26 points (3G, 23A) in 33 games since the all-star break.
VIEW FULL GAME NOTES
Mark Scheifele scored his team-leading 37th goal of the season on Thursday, which is the eighth-most in a season in franchise history...He can become the seventh player in franchise history to score 40 goals in a season with a hat trick tomorrow.
The Jets have seven players poised to play in all 82 games this season - Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba and Blake Wheeler...Laine and Little also played 82 games last season, while Wheeler will reach 82 games for the third time in the past four seasons...This is the first time in their career that Perreault and Trouba have played 82 games in a season.