ST. PAUL, Minnesota - For the first time since Oct. 25, Drew Stafford will suit up for the Winnipeg Jets.
The 31-year-old has missed 15 games with an upper-body injury, but will make his return tonight as the Winnipeg Jets (9-10-2) take on the Minnesota Wild.
Head coach Paul Maurice says the key to Stafford's success tonight will be simplicity.
"He's been out for a long time and we haven't been able to do a whole lot with him," Maurice said. "(He needs to) get it on and off his stick as quick as he can, run his routes, and get his legs under him."
Stafford has reached the 20-goal plateau four times in his career, and Andrew Copp says the veteran forward's presence in the locker room is a big asset.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
"I think just a calming presence, a guy who has been through the fight before," Copp said. "He's obviously one of our more skilled players. It'll be nice to have him back in the line-up. It makes all four lines dangerous."
The Jets aren't the only team getting good news on the injury front, as the Wild (9-7-2) get 26-year-old Marco Scandella back from a high ankle sprain injury that caused the defenceman to miss 10 games.
Both teams are coming off losses in their previous outings. The Jets will be looking to snap a losing streak that extended to three following a 3-1 defeat in Carolina. Meanwhile, the Wild dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Dallas on Monday.
"With the way the trip has gone so far, we're pressing for a win and for two points," Copp said. "Against Minnesota, a Central Division rival - and pretty much our main rival at that - that kind of amplifies the game. We know it's going to be a playoff type game. They're a tight checking team, they can put some pucks to the net, and they've got really good team defence too."
That team defence has allowed the least amount of goals against in the National Hockey League, with 35 in 18 games. Devan Dubnyk has been a big contributor to that stat. He leads the NHL in shutouts with four, and has a 1.59 goals against average in the 14 games he's played.
"Most goalies have a hard time finding things they can't see," Maurice said. "He controls his rebounds so very well, that he doesn't leave anything loose there. You have to be in pretty tight when you get a puck to the net."
The Jets are 4-2-1 against Central Division opponents so far, and Maurice is looking forward to adding another chapter to the growing rivalry between his squad and the Wild tonight.
Video: PREGAME | Jacob Trouba
"When you play the divisional teams, it feels different when you come into the building," he said. "You play each other enough that you have a memory of past games, and there's usually some physicality, and a different kind of intensity to the game."
With Drew Stafford being activated off injured reserve, the Winnipeg Jets re-assigned Quinton Howden to the Manitoba Moose. Howden played five games with the Jets since his recall on Nov. 12.
In addition, the Jets placed Tyler Myers on injured reserve retro-active to Nov. 11 with a lower-body injury.
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets are in the downward side of their current season-high five-game road trip with the fourth game tonight against the Minnesota Wild…The Jets lost 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday and are winless on the road trip so far…Mark Scheifele scored the only goal for Winnipeg against the Hurricanes…Minnesota comes into this game after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night…Tonight is the second of five meetings between the Jets and Wild this season and last meeting in Minnesota…The Wild beat the Jets 4-3 back on Oct. 15 in the second game of the season for both teams…Following tonight's game, the Jets head to Nashville where they will finish the trip on Friday against the Predators.
This is Winnipeg's eighth game against a Central Division foe this season and first of three in a row…The Jets are 4-2-1 against Central Division teams this season and four of the first seven games have been decided by one goal…In addition to their next three games, the Jets play a Central Division opponent in five of their next seven games.
On the Road Again
When the Jets are finished this trip, they will have played 10 of 13 games away from MTS Centre…The Jets are 3-6-2 on the road this season and have lost four in a row on the road (0-3-1) for the first time this season.
The Jets are 5-5-2 in November, during which they have played 12 games in 20 days…Winnipeg has already surpassed the four games they won in all of last November when they earned the least of amount of points in the NHL during that month with a 4-9-1 record (nine points).
The Jets took nine minor penalties against the Hurricanes on Sunday, which matches the most minor penalties assessed to a team in the NHL this season…Winnipeg also gave up seven power play opportunities, which is a season high.
- The Jets lead the NHL with 135 power play shots and are averaging 1.8 shots per power play.
- Winnipeg is a perfect 6-0 when leading after the second period, but have trailed after the second period in three consecutive games.
- As of Nov. 20, the Jets are tied for second in the NHL 92 man-games lost due to injury…The only game this season the Jets have had a healthy roster was on opening night on Oct. 13 against the Carolina Hurricanes, during which Bryan Little was injured in the first period and hasn't played since.
- Winnipeg has lost three in a row for the second time this season…The first time came Oct. 30-Nov. 3.
- The Jets gave up 40 shots on Sunday to Carolina, which matches the season-high 40 shots they surrendered to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 19 at MTS Centre in a 5-4 OT win.
- The Jets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their last four games.