NASHVILLE, Tennessee - Mark Scheifele's pregame routine is a little bit different as the Winnipeg Jets begin a two-game road trip tonight in Nashville against the Predators.
Scheifele's father Brad is one of 40 guests accompanying the players this week.
"It's awesome to be able to have him here," Scheifele said. "It'll be fun to have him watch a game here. It's always good hearing his laugh throughout the day and seeing his smile. Hopefully we can make it a good one for all the dads."
The group will cheer on their sons, brothers, and friends inside Bridgestone Arena where the Jets (30-14-2) dropped the first meeting of the season with Nashville 3-0 back on Oct. 11.
A lot has changed since then.
Nashville got bit by the injury bug shortly after a 13-3-1 start to the season. At one point, Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban, and Viktor Arvidsson were all out with injuries.
Now, it seems that bug has found the Jets dressing room. With Dustin Byfuglien and Nikolaj Ehlers already out of the line-up, the Jets have played two games without Tyler Myers (who returned to action in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights), and will now miss Ben Chiarot for a second consecutive night.
"In fairness, I think they've suffered more than we have," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "They lost key guys off their top pairings and their top forward lines and for long periods. They got off to a fantastic start, the injuries started, then they survived them - a little above .500 and it kept them in the running for first place."
The Jets will ice the same line-up that produced the win over Vegas two nights ago, with the only difference coming in goal. Connor Hellebuyck will get his 36th start of the season.
The rest of the Jets line-up is expected to look like this:
While Winnipeg is known for having an active blue line that likes to get involved in the rush, the same can be said for the Predators.
In fact, two defencemen - Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi - sit second and third on the Predators roster in points with 36 and 34 respectively.
"They seem to get a lot of pucks through and they shoot a lot of pucks from the point. We have to be in good lanes and be quick on the points," said Kyle Connor, who had three points in the win over Vegas. "As wingers, we have to close that gap pretty tight, but also don't give them the seam in the defensive zone if we're all the way up at the point. So it has to be a good balance of that."
Like Connor, Mathieu Perreault was a big factor in the win over the Golden Knights. His 10th goal of the season held up as the eventual game-winner in that contest. He said the Jets forwards play a key role in defending when the opposition starts moving up the ice.
"You have to come back hard because their D is always jumping in the play. You always have to keep that in mind. But we do that every night, it's part of our game plan to reload hard and come back," said Perreault. "Especially against (Nashville), you have to be above their defencemen because they want to jump in. They're very aggressive off the breakouts. They're going to pinch down on you. So you have to be aware of where their D are at all times. It makes for a challenging night for the wingers, but we should be up for the task."
Nashville is 6-2-2 in their last 10 games with tonight's game against the Jets being the second game of a three-game home stand. In their last outing, Nashville (28-16-4) handed the Washington Capitals a 7-2 defeat inside Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators are 16-7-0.
With the Jets holding a two-point lead over the Predators for top spot in the Central Division, Maurice can't wait for the next chapter in the rivalry between the two teams to get started.
"It's always special. The fans, just like when Nashville comes to Winnipeg, there is a buzz in the building," said Maurice. "It's one of those games that you're always worried if you're ready to go. That's part of the coaching job. You know there is a buzz in the room."
Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets play the first half a two-game road trip tonight in Nashville against the Predators...The Jets beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1 on Tuesday night to sweep a three-game homestand...The Jets play the second half of the road trip on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars.
On the Road Again
The Jets are 12-8-0 on the road this season and have lost back-to-back road games...Winnipeg has lost back-to-back road games on three occasions this season, but haven't lost three consecutive road games in regulation since Dec. 10-20/16...Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in scoring on the road this season with 22 points (3G, 19A) in 20 games, while Patrik Laine has 16 goals in 20 games.
After allowing a power play goal in six consecutive games, the Jets are a perfect 8-for-8 on the penalty kill in their last two games, including going 6-for-6 on Tuesday against Vegas...Tuesday was the third time this season the Jets have given their opponents six or more power play opportunities in a game and Winnipeg is a perfect 21-for-21 on the penalty kill in those games.
In their 46th game this season, the Jets improved their record to 30-14-2 on Tuesday, which establishes a franchise record for the fewest games needed to reach 30 wins...Last season, the Jets were 26-13-7 after 46 games, putting them three points ahead of last season's pace...Winnipeg won their 30th game last season in Game 51, which was the previous franchise record.
40 Shots Against
The Jets allowed 40 shots or more in two of the three games in their three-game homestand, but are a perfect 8-0-0 this season when allowing 40 shots or more...The Jets are averaging 27.6 shots in games they allow 40 or more shots...Winnipeg allowed 40 shots or more in nine games last season, going 3-4-2.
The Jets are in the midst of nine games (5-2-0) in 16 days leading into the player and all-star break from Jan. 20-27...After the all-star break, the Jets also have a busy schedule with 11 games in 20 days.
VIEW FULL GAME NOTES
Against the Central
The Jets are 9-6-0 against Central Division teams this season...Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Jets are 43-23-4 against Central Division teams, which is first in the NHL...In that same time frame, Blake Wheeler leads all NHLers in scoring against the Central Division with 91 points (27G, 64A) in 70 games, while Mark Scheifele is second with 84 points (34G, 50A) in 62 games.
Not So Little Production
Bryan Little is in his most productive month of the season with eight points (4G, 4A) in six games, which has surpassed the six points (2G, 4A) in 15 games he had in December...He has scored four of his 10 goals on the season this month and has a 36.4% shooting percentage...Little scored the game-winning goal for the Jets in two of the three games during the homestand.
The Jets have two players on six-game point streaks...Mark Scheifele (2G, 6A) and Bryan Little (4G, 4A) have eight points in the past six games...Blake Wheeler is on a three-game point streak with five points (2G, 3A).
Blake Wheeler tallied his 50th and 51st assists of the season on Tuesday...It's the second consecutive season in which he has 50 assists and third time in the past four seasons...Wheeler holds the franchise record for career assists with 374...His 219 assists during the past four seasons are the most in the NHL...Wheeler had a career-high 68 assists last season, but is on pace for 91 assists this season.
Goaltender Laurent Brossoit made 43 saves on Tuesday to improve to 10-1-1 this season and 10-0-1 in games he has started...Brossoit's 2.01 goals-against average and .943 save percentage are tops in the NHL among goaltender that have played in at least 12 games...He made 26 saves in the second period on Tuesday to set a franchise record for most saves in a period...Brossoit has made 11 starts this season, which is a career high.
Kyle Connor had three points (2G, 1A) on Tuesday against Vegas for his second three-point game in his last three games...After going 10 games without a point from Dec. 13-Jan. 4, Connor has nine points (5G, 4A) in his last six games.
Jets forwards Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele have been selected to represent the Jets as members of the Central Division team at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game...Wheeler, who is making his second consecutive all-star appearance, leads the Jets in points (60) and also leads the Jets and ranks tied for second in the NHL in assists (51)...Scheifele is making his first all-star appearance...He is tied for first on the Jets in goals (25), assists (33) and points (58)...He is also in the top 15 in the NHL in goals and points...Head coach Paul Maurice has been selected as the head coach of the Central Division team, based on the Jets being in first place in the Central Division at the midway point of the season.