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GAME DAY: Jets open 2017-18 season tonight vs. Toronto

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

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Hockey season is back.

It's been 180 days since the last time the Winnipeg Jets took to the ice in the preseason, and after seven preseason games, and two weeks of training camp, it's time to get to work.

It all begins tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"They have a lot of good players on that team. Obviously (Auston) Matthews is one of them, but they've got a great line-up. It's going to be an exciting game," said Mark Scheifele. "Now the season is starting, we have some key pieces signing long term, now it's time to prove to everyone what we've got."

Video: PREGAME | Mark Scheifele

Winnipeg finished 2-3-2 in the preseason, led by Patrik Laine's five goals and eight points.

As he has been during the last two days of practice, Laine was on the right wing at this morning's skate, with Bryan Little at centre, and Nikolaj Ehlers - fresh off signing a seven-year, $42 million contract extension - on the left wing.

"As Nik's linemate and good buddy, it's nice to see a nice guy like that get rewarded," said Laine. "I'm super happy for him. It's nice to see that this organization thinks, and believes, he's going to be a franchise player for this team. It's just awesome."

Video: PREGAME | Patrik Laine

The rest of this morning's line rushes looked like this:

Perreault-Scheifele-Wheeler

Ehlers-Little-Laine

Matthias-Lowry-Armia

Dano-Copp-Tanev

Morrissey-Trouba

Enstrom-Byfuglien

Kulikov-Myers

Head coach Paul Maurice stressed the importance of having penalty killers in the line-up throughout training camp. While the main focus is on taking less penalties - Winnipeg had the sixth most penalty minutes in the NHL last season- the head coach wanted to be as prepared as possible. Especially if the amount of penalties resemble the 17 taken in the exhibition opener against the Minnesota Wild.

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

"We feel we need to have at least five guys in that group right now, with who the centres are, changes what you've got on your wings," said Maurice. "If we get into anything that looks like our first exhibition game, we had 33 minutes of five-on-five hockey. I think we're all hoping the players have made the adjustments, and we understand how the game is going to get called, so we have more five-on-five time, and it's bit more reasonable.

"But if not, I don't think you can run your power play guys and your penalty kill guys on the same system. So you need to have as many guys killing penalties as you do on the power play."

Last season, both match-ups between the Jets and Maple Leafs ended up in 5-4 scores, with each game going to overtime. Laine had five goals in those two games, including his first career hat trick last October.

Steve Mason will make his first regular season start for the Jets, while Frederik Andersen will counter for the Maple Leafs. Puck drops at Bell MTS Place at 6 pm CT.

Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

"They're looking forward to it. We've practiced a lot. Not like it used to be with five weeks of camp," said Maurice. "There's still a lot to do, but they've had enough of those kinds of practices. They won't get those very often during the year, so they're ready to go."

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets embark on their 2017-18 season tonight against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, who are making their second October visit to Winnipeg in as many seasons…The Jets went 2-3-1 in pre-season play, including 2-0-1 at Bell MTS Place…Following tonight's game, the Jets set out for a three-game western Canada road trip, which takes them to Calgary on Saturday, Edmonton on Monday and Vancouver on Thursday…The Jets' next action at Bell MTS Place is Oct. 14 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Opening at Home

For the second time in as many seasons, the Jets begin their regular season schedule at home…Winnipeg is 1-2 when starting the regular season at home since the franchise came to Winnipeg from Atlanta - losing 5-1 on Oct. 9/11 against the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 19/13 and beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 in overtime last season…The franchise had a 4-4-1 record when beginning the season at home in Atlanta.

Home Openers

The Jets have won three of six home openers at Bell MTS Place, including three of the last four (Oct. 4/13 vs LAK - 5-3 W and Oct. 16/15 vs. CGY 3-1 W, Oct. 13/16 vs. CAR 5-4 OTW)… In Atlanta, the franchise went 5-4-2 in home openers for an all-time franchise mark of 8-7-2 in home openers.

Polished Power Play

Saturday's pre-season finale in Calgary saw Winnipeg tally on the power play to run their pre-season total to 13 PPGs on 44 chances…The Jets finished the pre-season as the NHL's best team on the power play in both percentage (29.5%) and goals scored (13)…Dustin Byfuglien and Patrik Laine led the way for Winnipeg with six power play points apiece…Nine different Jets had a power play goal, led by Laine's NHL-best four, and 17 different Winnipeg skaters had at least one point with the man advantage.

All's Well That Ends Well

The Jets ended last season on a seven-game winning streak to set the franchise record for wins in a row…The previous best was six wins from Nov. 19, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2010…All seven games were comeback wins…It was the first winning streak longer than five games since the team moved to Winnipeg…The Jets were one of five NHL teams to win eight of their last 10 regular season games.

Strength of Early Schedule

The Jets will go up against some of the top teams in the NHL right out of the gate when the regular season begins on tonight against the Maple Leafs…Of Winnipeg's 11 games in October, nine are against teams that made the playoffs last season…Included in the October schedule are two tilts against the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 26 at Pittsburgh and Oct. 29 in Winnipeg…The Jets play the 50-game winner from a year ago Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 17 in Winnipeg and Oct. 27 in Columbus…In total, Winnipeg's 11 October opponents had a combined record of 543-300-106 last season.
 
Sharp Shootin' Continues

Jets forward Patrik Laine's 17.6% shooting percentage led all NHLers that took at least 200 shots last season…He improved on that during the pre-season, scoring five goals on 20 shots for a 25% shooting percentage…Four of the five goals came on the power play, which paced the NHL during the pre-season.

Streaky Wheels

Captain Blake Wheeler ended last season on an eight-game scoring streak (4G, 7A) and had 18 points (6G, 12A) in his last 13 games…It's the second straight season he ended on a lengthy scoring streak, as he had 16 points (8G, 8A) in his last 11 games of the 2015-16 season…From Feb. 21 to the end of last season, Wheeler was tied for fifth in NHL scoring with 26 points (9G, 17A) in 20 games…He also started last season in a three-game point streak (3G, 2A).

Pre-Season Individual Leaders

Games Played: 6 - Connor, Poolman, Tanev
Goals: 5 - Laine
Assists: 4 - Byfuglien, Ehlers
Points: 8 - Laine
PIM: 21 - Trouba
PPG: 4 - Laine

Milestones within reach:

- Paul Maurice is currently tied for the franchise record for wins by a head coach (136) with Bob Hartley
- Blake Wheeler is one goal shy of 200 for his NHL career
- Dustin Byfuglien is two games played away from 500 with the Jets franchise
- Blake Wheeler is two games played away from 700 for his NHL career
- Mathieu Perreault is two games played away from 200 with the Jets franchise

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