Video: JetsTV Road Report
PITTSBURGH, PA - The chase is on in Pittsburgh.
With three goals in Tuesday's win over Dallas, Patrik Laine is chasing down Sidney Crosby for the NHL goal scoring lead. Meanwhile, Crosby is in a pursuit of his own. The 29 year old is one point shy of 1,000 for his career, and two back of the NHL points lead, with Mark Scheifele hot on his tail.
The stars are out for the first meeting of the season between the Winnipeg Jets (26-29-4) and Pittsburgh Penguins (35-13-7).
"He might be the best player in the world right now. It will be nice to play against him," Laine said. "We have to be careful with him, try to be aggressive, and take the puck away from him."
Video: PREGAME | Patrik Laine
Crosby admits he hasn't seen much of Laine this season, but does know one thing. The Finnish rookie can score goals. Crosby's assist in Pittsburgh's 4-0 win over Vancouver put him at 999 career points in a career that he admits has, at times, flown by.
"I think you realize it goes by quick. With each year, it feels like it goes by faster and faster," said Crosby. "I don't spend too much time reflecting on things so much, but when you're in a position like this and you're asked questions and you talk about it a bit, it's hard not to think back to some of those early days.
"I think for the most part you're just going one game at a time and trying to enjoy it as best you can."
Video: PREGAME | Sidney Crosby
But Crosby is only one part of a Penguins team that leads the NHL in goals scored (195), and is fifth power play percentage (21.9 percent). They've also played well at home, going 23-3-3 in 29 games at PPG Paints Arena. But head coach Paul Maurice sees some similar challenges in Pittsburgh's game that the Jets dealt with against Dallas.
"It's not the same kind of game, " he said. "But the offensive game - the speed that they play at, the way they can execute off the rush, the number of guys on this team that can score from outside the scoring area so everything is dangerous - makes them the challenge that they are."
With Andrew Copp not on the road trip due to an upper body injury sustained on Tuesday, Mathieu Perreault slotted in on the wing alongside Scheifele and Laine.
"We have to be prepared to defend hard. They're a team that comes at you," said Perreault. "Defending is going to be our first mindset tonight. We'll get our chances once they're there, we just have to put them in. We have to make sure we play on the right side of the puck against these guys."
Sitting five points back of the Calgary Flames for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference, the Jets know the importance of this four-game trip through the East. Every team Winnipeg will face over the next week is holding a playoff spot going into tonight's action.
They can't get all the points back at once. It starts with working to get two tonight.
"(We have to) come out hard with tons of energy, play hard, get physical early, get on the body so they don't start snapping it around. Once they start feeling it they're a tough team to play against," said Perreault. "So if we can get on the body and make them get rid of the puck a little quicker than they want to, I think we'll give ourselves a chance."
Video: PREGAME | Mathieu Perreault
Connor Hellebuyck (18-15-1, 2.77 GAA, and .910 save percentage) starts in goal for the Jets, while Marc-Andre Fleury (14-7-5, 3.17 GAA, and .904) will counter for Pittsburgh.
Puck drop is set for 6 pm CT on TSN 3 and TSN 1290.
Maurice announced the defenceman Toby Enstrom had surgery today to repair an existing lower body injury and is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.
"We got to the point where the rehab on that would be at least that long, and at the end we still wouldn't know if we had a healthy player," Maurice said. "So we took care of that this morning."
He added that Tyler Myers is continuing to rehab from his surgery, and Marko Dano skated in a non-contact jersey again today.
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets begin a four-game Eastern Conference road trip tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins…The Jets finished a four-game homestand on Tuesday night with a 5-2 win over the Central Division rival Dallas Stars…Patrik Laine netted a hat trick for the Jets on Tuesday, while Mark Scheifele assisted all three of Laine's goals…The Penguins enter tonight's tilt with points in seven consecutive games…Winnipeg's road trip continues Saturday afternoon against the Montreal Canadiens.
Top 10 Production
The Jets are averaging 2.86 goals per game this season, which is tied for ninth in the NHL…Winnipeg also boasts a 9.8% team shooting percentage, which is seventh in the NHL…In the last month, the Jets team shooting percentage is fifth in the NHL at 11.0%.
The Jets are 7-13-2 against Eastern Conference teams this season, including 2-7-1 against Metropolitan Division teams…Winnipeg has lost their last three games against Eastern Conference opponents...Last season the Jets went 12-15-5 against the Eastern Conference.
Special Teams Notes
- The Jets have played 35:15 more on the power play than on the penalty kill at home this season, but have played 44:24 more on the penalty kill than on the power play on the road.
- The Jets have been shorthanded 67 times in the third period this season, which is the most in the league.
- At an even 200, the Jets are one of five teams in the NHL to have been shorthanded at least 200 times this season.
Hat Trick Laine Strikes Again
Rookie Patrik Laine netted his third hat trick of the season Tuesday against Dallas…He's the first rookie since Eric Lindros and Teemu Selanne in the 1992-93 season to register three hat tricks in a season…Prior to this season, Jets players had scored a combined four hat tricks in the five seasons since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg…Laine is second in NHL rookie scoring this season with 47 points (26g, 21a) in 51 games.
Set Up Centre
Mark Scheifele's three assists on Laine's goals against Dallas on Tuesday matched a career high for assists in a game…The first time Scheifele had a trio of assists in a game was Feb. 25/16 at DAL…All three assists on Tuesday were at even strength, which moved Scheifele into a tie with Edmonton's Connor McDavid for the most even strength points in the NHL this season with 45…In the last calendar year, Scheifele leads the NHL with 73 even strength points, two better than Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and 11 more than third place McDavid…Scheifele has an assist in 99 of the 283 NHL games he's played.
Wheeler Climbs Past Ladd
With an empty net goal on Tuesday, captain Blake Wheeler moved past Andrew Ladd for fourth in goals in franchise history with 140…He's now five goals back of Vyacheslav Kozlov for third all-time…Since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, Wheeler leads the organization with 133 goals in 430 games.
Jets vs. Penguins All-Time Records
At PPG Paints Arena: 0-8-0