Video: PRE-GAME | JetsTV Road Report
LAS VEGAS, Nevada - One day off, two practice days, and now, it's finally game day.
The Winnipeg Jets (8-3-3) face off with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights for the first time in history tonight at T-Mobile Arena. It's the second stop on a three-game road trip that saw the Jets begin the stretch with a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday.
Sitting 5-0-3 in their last eight games, the Jets could tie a franchise record for games with at least a point tonight. The record was set back in 2005.
But despite the team's strong play of late, captain Blake Wheeler knows the Golden Knights will be a handful tonight, especially in their home building, where they are 6-1-0 so far this season.
Video: PRE-GAME | Blake Wheeler
"That's a group over there that a lot of guys have a chip on their shoulder," said Wheeler, whose 21 points have him tied for fourth in league scoring.
"You have to respect what your opponents are good at. They're hard on every puck, they come back hard, there's no easy ice out there. If you're looking for it, it's going to be a long night. Even if you're doing the right things, it's going to be a long night.
"It's going to be one of those games you have to grind through."
Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, and Bryan Little didn't take part in the morning skate today, but head coach Paul Maurice says all three are good to go.
Here are the projected lines for tonight, based on the last two days of practice:
As for the Golden Knights, they're returning home for tonight's game before heading back out on the road for a two-game road trip.
Video: PRE-GAME | Paul Maurice
Vegas got back home from a six-game road trip after Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Overall, Vegas went 1-4-1 on the trip, but their 9-5-1 record has them second in the Pacific Division.
"From what we've looked at so far, they play a very tight game," said defenceman Tyler Myers. "They don't give much up, especially off the rush. It seems like they've really bought into their team system. We're going to have to approach tonight with a very simple mindset, and do all the little things necessary to get two points here."
All week, Maurice has repeated what he feels are the strengths of the Golden Knights - defending off the rush, structure, and quick transition. His focus over the last couple practices has been making sure his team's speed stays where it needs to be.
Video: PRE-GAME | Tyler Myers
That means more time talking about systems during video sessions, so once the team is on the ice, the drills are about getting up and down the ice quickly, in preparation for game play.
"We don't want to play any differently. There wouldn't be any difference between a three or four-day break. We want to play this game as fast as we can," said Maurice. "We want to eliminate the things that slow your hockey team down. Sometimes after a break, or if you're looking for an easier game, you end up slowing down to (try) and make more plays.
"The NHL game doesn't allow for that. It doesn't allow you to be successful doing that. We're fast. We have to play fast."
Connor Hellebuyck gets the start in goal for the Jets, with puck drop set for 9:30 pm CT.
Video: PRE-GAME | Josh Morrissey
Over the course of the last few days in Las Vegas, the Jets players have started to encounter more and more fans of the team as they walk around the team hotel.
"It's exciting. The last couple days we've ran into a lot of Jets fans around the Strip," said Myers.
"We're expecting quite a few of our fans here tonight. That'll be exciting for us, and hopefully we can get a win for them."
Historically, Jets fans have travelled well and usually have a good amount of representation in the stands in visiting arenas, but Maurice thinks tonight could see more Jets fans in the stands than a regular road game.
"The first time it happened to us was in Arizona, I think we had more fans in the building than they did. I don't know if we're getting close to that, but it's great," said Maurice. "You know by the time the national anthem is done how many people we have there. It'll make for a great atmosphere tonight."
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
JETS GAME NOTES (CLICK FOR MORE)
The Winnipeg Jets play their first game against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights tonight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas...The Jets beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday to run their point streak to eight games (5-0-3)...The Jets finish this three-game road trip Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes, which is the front half of a home-and-home set... The Jets welcome the Coyotes on Nov. 14 when Dale Hawerchuk will be inducted into the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame.
Winnipeg's eight game streak of points earned is one game shy of a franchise record...The then-Atlanta Thrashers had points in nine straight games from Dec. 9-28, 2005, going 6-0-3...During the eight-game streak, the Jets have outscored their opponents 28-17 and are clipping along at a 34.6% rate on the power play (9-for-26).
Outshot? No Sweat
Winnipeg is 5-2-3 when getting outshot this season and 3-1-0 when outshooting their opposition... This continues last season's trend when the Jets went 21-17-5 when being outshot and 18-18-2 when outshooting their opponent...The Jets have taken a league-low 385 shots this season, while giving up 483 shots for a league worst -98 shot differential... On average, the Jets are giving up seven more shots per game than they take, but have overcome the difference with a 11.9% shooting percentage - third best in the NHL.
Shootin' and Savin'
The Jets have boasted a shooting percentage better than 15% in three straight games and four of their last five games...Combined with the strong play of Connor Hellebuyck, who has a .940 save percentage in the last five games, the Jets have an astounding 110.7 PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage) in the five games...To put that into perspective, in the eight seasons since the stat has been tracked, the franchise record for PDO is 100.7, which was for the 2014-15 season.
The Jets have scored first in six consecutive games, going 4-0-2...Winnipeg is sixth in the NHL with a 7-1-2 record when scoring first this season (.700 winning percentage)...Last season, the Jets were 25-13-2 when scoring first (.625 winning percentage).
Against the Pacific
Tomorrow is the first of three consecutive games the Jets play against Pacific Division opponents... The Jets see a Pacific Division opponent in six of their next nine games - five of which are on the road...Winnipeg is 2-1-0 against the Pacific Division this season after picking up wins in Edmonton and Vancouver, but losing to Calgary during their first road trip of the season...The Jets were 7-13-1 against the Pacific last season, which marked their first losing record against the Pacific since realignment for the 2013-14 season.
Finished Hot, Staying Hot
Since March 13/17, the Jets have a 18-5-4 record, which is tied for third-best in the NHL...Winnipeg has earned 74% of the possible 54 points in the 27 games...Fourteen of the 27 games been decided by one goal...The Jets haven't lost any of those 14 games in regulation going 10-0-4.
Rack 'Em Up, Wheeler
Blake Wheeler matched a career-high with four assists on Monday against Dallas...It's the fourth time he's registered four assists in a game - all of which have happened as a member of the Jets...It's the fifth time he's had four points in a game and second time this season, as he had three goals and an assist Oct. 29 vs. PIT...Monday's game was Wheeler's third consecutive multi-point game and fourth multi-point game in his last five games...He has 13 points (4G, 9A) in his last five games and boasts a team-leading six multi-point games this season...Wheeler has 98 multi-point games since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011- 12 season...On the season, Wheeler is tied for third in NHL scoring with 21 points and is second in assists with 16.
Two for Scheifele
Mark Scheifele scored twice on Monday to overtake Nikolaj Ehlers for the team lead in goals with nine... Scheifele has five goals in his last three games...During the last two seasons, Scheifele is fifth in the NHL with 100 points (41G, 39) in 93 games.
Helle Stays Hot
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (8-0-2) continues to stretch his franchise record for consecutive points earned to start a season...He stopped 33 of 34 shots on Monday, marking the sixth time in 10 starts this season that he's made at least 30 saves...Hellebuyck has posted eight quality starts (sv% in game above league average) in 10 starts this season, which is tied for ninth in the NHL (eight goaltenders have nine quality starts)...Hellebuyck is the only goaltender in the NHL that has made at least 10 starts and is undefeated in regulation...His .936 save percentage is third in the NHL among qualifying goalies...Take away his relief appearance on opening night and Hellebuyck has a .940 save percentage in his starts.
Patrik Laine has a goal in three consecutive games...He had three three-game goal scoring streaks as a rookie last season...A goal tomorrow would give him the first four-game goal scoring streak of his career.