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GAME DAY: Jets host Ducks in first of back-to-back

7:00pm CT - TV: TSN3; Radio: TSN 1290

by Winnipeg Jets @NHLJets / WinnipegJets.com

Video: WPG vs. ANA - Pre-Game Report - 01/23/2017

WINNIPEG - For the ninth time this season, the Winnipeg Jets will look to win a third consecutive game tonight when they entertain the Anaheim Ducks at MTS Centre (7:00pm CT; TSN3, TSN1290).

The Jets, who are coming off a colossal 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues but remain one game below .500 at 22-23-4, currently trail the Calgary Flames by three points for the second and final wild-card playoff spot.

While the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings are in the way, and the Dallas Stars are nipping at their heels, the Jets are the hottest of the five teams in the mix, and are gaining ground after falling off the pace with a four-game slide late last week.

"We're really working hard right now," said defenceman Josh Morrissey. "(Pavelec's) been great in the net, special teams have been good and we've just been working really hard and playing to our game plan for pretty well the whole 60 for both games.

"We're on the outside looking in right now, but I like the way we've been playing. We have a big two here at home, and one more after that before the All-Star break so we've got to be ready to go."

Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey

Indeed, this week could go a long way in determining their playoff future with or without the playoffs, with games against three of the top teams in the Western Conference, including two in the next 48 hours. The Jets are 5-7-1 against Pacific Division opponents this season, and have yet to beat either of the three teams (Anaheim, San Jose and Edmonton) currently holding down a playoff spot.

They'll get two of them right here at MTS Centre before facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night in the Windy City.

"We've done well in that situation this year," Morrissey said.

"You have to rise to the challenge."

The Jets will have a bit of a different look tonight, with Drew Stafford sitting this one out after going down in the second period of Saturday's win over the St. Louis Blues.

Stafford (day-to-day) will not play due to a lower-body injury, and as a result, Andrew Copp will take over on the second line, while Brandon Tanev will draw in for the first time since being recalled from the Manitoba Moose on Jan. 9.

"It's been a little bit of time since I had a game, but at the same time, I've been on the ice, working out and staying in good shape so I'm going to go out there and pick up where I left off; continue to push the pace, do what the team needs me to do to help get a win," Tanev said.

The 25-year-old started the year with the Jets and played 35 NHL games before being sent down on Dec. 28. In six games with the Moose, Tanev posted one goal and two assists, and was playing bigger minutes in more offensive situations, which is something both he and the big club wanted him to experience.

"You go down there and you get to feel the puck a bit more and build some confidence that you may have had, but lost for a bit," Tanev said.

The forward line combinations and D pairs will all shake out as follows:

Perreault - Little - Wheeler
Copp - Scheifele - Ehlers
Matthias - Lowry - Armia
Tanev - Petan - Thorburn

Morrissey - Byfuglien
Enstrom - Trouba
Stuart - Postma

Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal for the third straight game. The 29-year-old has a 3.03 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in two appearances - both wins - after being recalled from the Moose late last week.

The Jets are also in action tomorrow night against the San Jose Sharks, meaning the veteran could see the ice on back-to-back nights - a rarity these days - but that will depend on shot volume and overall workload. The one benefit the Jets do have in this situation is that usually back-to-back games happen on the road, where late nights factor into the equation after post-game travel, but that is not the case here tonight.

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

"We would consider it," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "The cost of the game, how strong he feels... It's possible."

For the Ducks: John Gibson left Saturday's contest against the Minnesota Wild after suffering an upper-body injury, but he will be available for tonight's game in some capacity.

If he does not get the call, Jonathan Bernier will start between the pipes.

Up front, Jakob Silfverberg, who's been a fixture with Andrew Cogliano and the team's leading scorer and defensive specialist, Ryan Kesler, will not play, as he did not accompany the team on this quick, two-game road trip.

LATE HITS: Patrik Laine could make his highly anticipated return to the lineup tomorrow night.

"He's been banging on the door a little bit here. He's feeling strong, feeling ready," said Maurice, who, along with the rest of the coaching staff, put him through the paces following Sunday's practice. "If we weren't playing San Jose tomorrow, if it wasn't back-to-back, we would have considered him for this game. We felt we needed to push him as hard as we did to clear up any concerns we may have had. … He's very, very close. I'd consider him an option for tomorrow."

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets continue a four-game home stand tonight against the Anaheim Ducks…It's the first of back-to-back games for the Jets at MTS Centre, as the San Jose Sharks visit tomorrow night…The Jets have won the first two games of the homestand - 6-3 against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday and 5-3 over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday…Bryan Little scored a pair of power play goals for Winnipeg on Saturday against the Blues, while Mark Scheifele scored the game-winner in the third period and Ondrej Pavelec made 34 saves for his second consecutive win…The Ducks lost 5-3 to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, but had earned points in their previous six games (5-0-1)…After playing the Sharks Tuesday, the Jets visit the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday in their last game before next weekend's all-star break.

Back-to-Back Wins

With the two wins at home this week, the Jets have now won back-to-back games nine times this season and can win three straight for the first time this season with a victory tonight...Last season, the Jets won back-to-back games 10 times, but didn't win three in a row until winning the final four games of the season…Dating back to last season, the Jets are 1-16-2 in games when they have the opportunity to win three consecutive games.

Pacific Blues

tonight is the sixth of seven games the Jets play against Pacific Division teams in a 16-day span (Jan. 9-24)…Thanks to Wednesday's win against Arizona, the Jets are 5-7-1 against Pacific Division teams this season, but have yet to beat one of the three teams in the division currently holding a playoff spot - Anaheim, San Jose and Edmonton (0-4-0)…Last season, the Jets went 12-8-1 against Pacific Division opponents.

Goals Cometh

With six goals on Wednesday and five goals on Saturday, the Jets have scored at least five goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season…The last time the Jets were credited with five goals in back-to-back games was Feb. 14/15 at DET 5-4 SOW and Feb. 16/15 vs. EDM 5-4 SO, but both of those wins came in a shootout…Jan. 13/14 vs. ARI 5-1 W and Jan. 16/14 at CGY 5-2 is the last time the Jets have scored five goals in consecutive games that ended in regulation…Winnipeg is tied for second in the NHL with 37 goals in 10 games in January.

Gettin' Busy

With 49 games played, the Jets are one of five teams (as are the Anaheim Ducks) in the NHL that have played the most games this season…Leading into the NHL All-Star Break, the Jets play 11 games in 20 days from Jan. 7-26...So far, the Jets are 3-4-1 in the stretch…It's one game shy of the 12 games in 20 days the Jets played from Nov. 1-20 earlier this season.

Special Teams Notes

- The Jets matched a season high with three power play goals against the Blues on Saturday, which ended a two-game streak of not scoring a power play goal.
- Winnipeg is 5-for-14 (35.7%) on the power play in their last four games.
- The Jets are 27-for-32 (84.4%) on the penalty kill in their last nine games.
- Winnipeg has gone 3-for-4 on the penalty kill in each of their last three games.
- The Jets have allowed one power play goal in five of their last six games.

Team Quick Hits

- The Jets have taken 323 shots in January, which is fifth in the NHL, but have also given up 331 shots, which is tied for the second most in the NHL this month.
- The Jets have taken 194 minor penalties this season, which is second in the NHL behind Calgary's 213 minors.

Player Quick Hits

- Mark Scheifele (2g, 4a) has a point in four straight games, while seven other Jets have points in back-to-back games.
- Blake Wheeler has 17 points (7g, 10a) in his last 17 games and hasn't gone back-to-back games without a point since Dec. 8-11.
- Dustin Byfuglien leads all NHLers with 1,331:49 TOI this season and is the only player in the NHL this season to play more than 1,300 minutes.

Strong Early Returns

After starting the season with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has stopped 64 of 70 shots (.914 save percentage) to win his first two games with the Jets this season…He saved all 25 shots he faced in the second period Saturday against St. Louis to establish a new franchise record for most saves in a period…Dating back to last season, Pavelec is 7-0-2 with a .916 save percentage in his last nine NHL starts.
 
50 on the PP

Bryan Little scored two power play goals against the Blues on Saturday to become the third player to reach 50 power play goals in franchise history, joining Ilya Kovalchuk (115) and Vyacheslav Kozlov (51)…Since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, Little has a team-best 31 power play goals and is third on the team with 68 power play points.
 
Two is Better Than One

Seven Jets had two points on Saturday against the Blues…Mark Scheifele had a goal and an assist for his 11th multi-point game of the season, which ties Patrik Laine for the team lead.
               
Jets vs. Ducks All-Time Records
Overall: 9-10-4
At MTS Centre: 1-2-2

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