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GAME DAY: Jets close 2016-17 season tonight vs. Preds

6:00pm CT - TV: CITY; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

Video: TSN Pre-Game Report

WINNIPEG - Kyle Connor returns to the line-up tonight as the Winnipeg Jets (39-35-7) wrap up the regular season against the Nashville Predators.

After being recalled on Monday, Connor skated with Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn at this morning's pre-game skate.

"I'm definitely excited to get a chance to go out there and prove myself again," said Connor. "There's not as much nerves as a first game per se, for me I'm just looking to go out there and play the game, and do what I do well."

The 20-year-old played the first 19 games of the season with the Jets before being re-assigned to the Manitoba Moose. He said his time in the American Hockey League helped his game immensely.

Video: PREGAME | Kyle Connor

"I definitely learned the style of game, the pro style," said Connor. "Playing a little bit more of an important role and playing some more minutes too, I learned about my game as well."

The native of Shelby Township, Michigan scored his first NHL goal against Dallas back on Oct. 27, and added three assists before being re-assigned on Dec. 9.

Connor went on an offensive tear with the Moose, recording a hat trick against San Antonio on Feb. 25 as part of a streak of 13 points in six games. In 49 games with Manitoba prior to his recall, Connor surged into second place on team scoring with 23 goals and 42 points.

Connor's return to the NHL level comes one game after Jack Roslovic and Eric Comrie made their NHL debuts in Thursday's 5-4 win over Columbus.

"They had years that we want them to know were recognized, and we want it to be part of the driving for them in the summer," said Paul Maurice. "Roslovic had a very strong year, he'd be playing major junior this year. Kyle Connor went down and really improved in the areas we wanted them too. Eric Comrie as well, almost two full years, 100 pro games, and he's been in the net grinding and doing it all right.

"It's not a free ticket to next year. They've done what we asked them to do. They have a high enough level of talent that we think there's another level for these guys. We think they're going to play in the National Hockey League. We want them to know we've seen it."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

This is also the season finale for the Predators (41-28-12), who hold down the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference, one point back of St. Louis for third in the Central, but the Blues have one game in hand.

The Jets will be looking to extend a six-game win streak, the longest run the team has been on since relocating to Winnipeg in 2011. Since that year, the Jets are 22-8-4 in the month of April.

Captain Blake Wheeler says it hasn't been easy going on such a run with the playoffs not a possibility, but adds the key has been how the team has approached each day since being eliminated.

Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler

"We have good guys in the room. There's no quit. It's easy to come to the rink when you've been eliminated from the playoffs and stop doing the things you do," said Wheeler. "What we've been trying to preach is 'one day we're going to get to the spot where we want to be, and these games are going to be important at that time.' It's just building good habits, especially with a young team."

After finishing with a 18-17-6 record on the road, the Jets will try to improve the 21-18-1 record at MTS Centre with a win tonight.

"We've been playing good hockey. It's a tough situation for us, but I think everyone can be proud of how we've been battling down the stretch," said Josh Morrissey. "For us tonight here, we want to come out with a big effort. Obviously you always want to win your last game, and put in a big effort for our fans who have been by us all year. We have some of the best fans in the league, so they deserve that."

Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey

Connor Hellebuyck (25-19-4, 0.906 save percentage) will start in goal for the Jets with puck drop set for 6 pm CT.

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets play their final game of the 2016-17 season tonight against the Nashville Predators, who are making their second visit to Winnipeg this season…The Jets edged the Columbus Blues Jackets 5-4 on Thursday night to run their winning streak to six games…Bryan Little paced the Jets with a goal and three assists, while Mathieu Perreault tallied a goal and two assists and Jacob Trouba scored twice on the power play…The Predators are coming off a 7-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Thursday and also conclude their regular season schedule tonight.

Facing the Central

The Jets are 18-8-2 against Central Division teams this season, including 11-6-1 against the four Central Division teams that are going to the playoffs…A win tonight gives the Jets a share of the best record in games played within the Central Division, as the Chicago Blackhawks went 19-8-2 in divisional games this season…A victory tonight also gives the Jets a winning record against this season against every Central Division team, except for the Minnesota Wild (1-4-0).

Fly the W

Thursday's win improved Winnipeg to 9-2-1 in their last 12 games, giving the Jets a tie for the fifth-best record in the NHL since Mar. 13…It's their best 12-game stretch of the season, which has been buoyed by six straight comeback wins...It's the first time the Jets have won six games in a row since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.
 
April Wins

Dating back to last season, the Jets have won seven straight games in April…Winnipeg is 13-0-2 in their last 15 games in April…The Jets last regulation loss in April occurred on Apr. 7, 2014 in a 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild…Since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets are 22-8-4 in the month of April.

Special Teams Notes

- The Jets are 10-for-38 (26.3%) on the power play in their last 12 games.
- The Jets went 2-for-3 on the power play against Columbus on Thursday to end a four-game power play drought.
- The Jets are 12-for-13 (92.3%) on the penalty kill in their last seven games.

Potent Quartet

With Mark Scheifele (81), Blake Wheeler (73), Patrik Laine (64) and Nikolaj Ehlers (64), the Jets one of two teams in the NHL to have four players reach 60 points this season (The Toronto Maple Leafs are the other)…The foursome has combined for 282 points, which is the most points by four teammates in the NHL this season.

Wheels Up

Captain Blake Wheeler is on a seven-game point streak (3g, 7a), which is his longest point streak this season…He also has a point in 11 of his last 12 games (5g, 12a)…Since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, Wheeler leads the team in scoring with 385 points (139g, 246a) in 451 games and is the only player to surpass 300 points since that time…Since the 2012-13 season, Wheeler is 11th in NHL scoring with 322 points (124g, 198a) in 372 games.

Scheifs Stays Hot

Mark Scheifele has a point in 18 of his last 23 games (7g, 21a)…He had two assists on Tuesday against St. Louis to become the first player to reach 80 points since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011…He reached 81 points with a goal against Columbus on Thursday…Vyacheslav Kozlov's 80 points during the 2006-07 season was the last time in franchise history a player reached 80 points in a season.

Youth Movement

Goaltender Eric Comrie and forward Jack Roslovic made their NHL debuts on Thursday against Columbus, joining defenceman Nelson Nogier and forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor as members of the Jets to play their first NHL game this season…The Jets have had players age 25 and younger play 902 games for them this season, which is second in the NHL to the Carolina Hurricanes' 990 games played by players age 25 and younger.

Jets vs. Predators All-Time Records

Overall: 13-16-5
At MTS Centre: 4-5-0

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