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GAME DAY: Jets open road trip in Nashville

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

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

Video: PREGAME | JetsTV Road Report

NASHVILLE, TN - Ben Chiarot will see his first regular season action since Oct. 20 tonight when the Winnipeg Jets (12-4-3) open a four-game road trip in Nashville against the Predators.

The 26-year-old Chiarot's opportunity comes after Toby Enstrom suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday's 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.

"It's been long. It's been a process. You start to lose your mind a little bit when you're skating in circles every day like that. But it should all pay off," said Chiarot. "You do all the right things, and good things should happen."

He'll have a familiar partner on the blue line, as Chiarot will be on the left side with Dustin Byfuglien on the right. Head coach Paul Maurice says after this morning's optional skate that he won't try to manage Chiarot's minutes much tonight.

"He's a fit man and he's worked hard," said Maurice. "Most of what he's got to get done is in a 10-15 foot area. So he'll go out and play regularly. We won't spend any time wondering how he's feeling."

Video: PREGAME | Ben Chiarot

The Jets didn't take any line rushes this morning, but the line-up is expected to look like this:

Connor - Scheifele - Wheeler
Ehlers - Little - Laine
Copp - Lowry - Tanev
Perreault - Hendricks - Armia

Morrissey - Trouba
Chiarot - Byfuglien
Kulikov - Myers

The first meeting of the season between the Jets and Predators (11-6-2) comes with both teams playing well. The Jets have won each of their last four games, while the Predators have won six of their last seven.

Maurice sees the addition of Kyle Turris - acquired in a three-way trade with Ottawa and Colorado on Nov. 5 - as a move that improved Nashville's offensive depth.

"Now their team looks more like what they've played with in the past. They've got a couple centre men there, and (Nick) Bonino was brought in to take that (Mike) Fisher hole," said Maurice. "They're back to looking the way they were. As heavy of a forechecking team as you're going to see, as active a back end in off that dumped puck or chip, they'll get right in and involved.

"For us, being able to understand the game in our end - because it's going to be played at times in our end - we're not getting out clean. Our breakouts, our exits, clean or not, are a key piece to it here."

Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

Eight Predators skaters have points in the double digits, with three of them being defencemen (PK Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm). With Nashville's active blue line, Jets forward Mathieu Perreault says communication in the defensive zone will be important tonight.

"Especially with their D, and knowing they're going to come down, get in the offence, and pinch down on the boards," said Perreault. "We've done a good job of communicating on the ice lately. Especially my line with (Matt Hendricks) and (Joel Armia). Hendy talks a lot, and helps on everything."

With Nashville only three points back of the Jets in the standings, and four more meetings between the teams to come this season, a valuable two points are on the line tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

But the Jets know there is still a long way to go in the regular season.

"When it's going well, you're feeling good in the room. None of these guys are satisfied before we're in the playoffs. There is still a long way to go to reach that goal," said Ehlers. "We're enjoying this right now, but we're also working hard to be able to give ourselves a chance every single game, and we're doing that right now."

Video: PREGAME | Mathieu Perreault

Blake Wheeler said after practice yesterday that the team is focused solely on Nashville, and the 'one game at a time' approach has helped keep things in perspective.

Wheeler is also someone Chiarot holds as an example for players like him, fighting to earn the opportunity in front of him tonight.

"Blake says it all the time. He still earns it every day. He's the hardest working guy on our team, and he's the captain and best player," said Chiarot. "When you look at a guy like that, it's easy to not take it for granted, and take every opportunity that you get.

"Every game you get in this league is an opportunity to showcase yourself."

Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get his fourth consecutive start tonight in goal, with puck drop set for 7 pm CT.

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets begin a four-game Western Conference road trip tonight against the Nashville Predators...The Jets are coming off a perfect 3-for-3 homestand last week, capped by a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon...After tonight's game, the Jets head to California for three games, beginning Wednesday night in Los Angeles against the Kings...Winnipeg also visits the Anaheim Ducks (Friday) and San Jose Sharks (Saturday).

Jets vs. Predators Notes

- Winnipeg has points in three straight games against the Predators (2-0-1).
- The Jets are 1-for-16 (6.3%) on the power play in their last six games against Nashville.
- Eight of the last 11 games between the Jets and Predators have been decided by more than one goal, but the last two games have been one-goal games.
- The Jets are 3-4-1 in their last eight games in Nashville, having scored one goal or less in each of the four losses. However, the Jets have outscored the Predators 9-3 in the three wins.
- Since relocating to Winnipeg, the Jets are 3-5-2 in Nashville.

Four Straight
 
Saturday's win ran Winnipeg's winning streak to four games - the longest of the season...The Jets had won three games in a row twice previously this season...The Jets ended last season on a franchise record seven-game winning streak...Dating back to last season, the only time the Jets have lost back-to-back games in regulation since Mar. 26/17 was the first two games of this season - Oct. 4 vs. TOR and Oct. 7 at CGY...Winnipeg has a 19-4-3 record since Mar. 26/17, which is third best in the NHL since that time.

Against the Central

After going 19-8-2 against its Central Division counterparts last season, Winnipeg is a perfect 4-0 against the Central to start this season, picking up a pair of wins against the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars...The Jets tied for a share of the best record in games played within the Central Division last season, as the Chicago Blackhawks also went 19-8-2 in divisional games...The Jets also had a winning record against every Central Division team, except the Wild (1-4-0).

20-Game Mark
 
The Jets can set a franchise record for most wins in their first 20 games of a season with a win tonight...Winnipeg's 12 wins this season tied the 12 wins the Atlanta Thrashers accomplished in their first 20 games of the 2006-07 season...Since relocating to Winnipeg in 2011, only once have the Jets had a losing record in their first 20 games, going 8-9-3 during the 2011-12 season...The Jets have been at .500 in three other seasons, while they were 10-9-1 during the 2012-13 season and 10-7-3 during the 2014-15 season.

Quick Strike

The Jets scored three goals in 1:35 of the second period Saturday against New Jersey...It was one second shy of the franchise record for fastest three goals, which was established against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this season in the first period on Oct. 29...The five second period goals the Jets scored against New Jersey set a franchise record for most goals in the second period of a game.

Wall of Helle

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 34 of 36 shots on Saturday to increase his save percentage to .931 on the season, which is tied for fourth in the NHL among qualified goaltenders...He's allowed two goals or less in 11 of his 14 starts this season...He has 11 quality starts this season, which is one off the NHL lead of 12...Showing his improvement over last season, Hellebuyck has 9.74 goals saved above average this season, compared to -9.96 last season - an improvement of 18.70.

Streaking Laine

Patrik Laine scored his 10th goal of the season on Saturday to match a career-high eight-game point streak (6G, 3A)...The streak started with a five-game goal scoring streak...Laine also had an eight-game point streak from Dec. 31/16-Feb. 2/17 (4G, 9A).

Fourth Line Production

The Jets' fourth line of Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia combined for six points on Saturday...Perreault has three points (2G, 1A) in two games since returning to the line-up after missing 12 games due to injury...Hendricks was selected the first star on Saturday after scoring a goal and adding an assist for his first multi-point game as a member of the Jets...It was Hendricks' ninth multi-point game of his career...Armia had two assists for the first multi-assist game of his career.

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