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WINNIPEG - Two wins over the Minnesota Wild gave the Winnipeg Jets a strong start against divisional opponents this season.
But as is life in the Central Division, another stiff test is just around the corner.
Tonight, that challenge comes in the form of the 7-5-0 Dallas Stars, making their first visit of the 2017-18 season to Bell MTS Place.
"They have a lot of talent, they play a fast game and if you come in not ready to skate, and they'll blow the doors off you," said Wheeler. "A lot of the same faces, but they obviously made some additions in the off season. It's a good team over there."
As Wheeler says, this isn't the same Stars team the Jets (6-3-2) won four of five against last season, outscoring them 23- 11 in the process.
Dallas added Ben Bishop in goal, and so far, the new acquisition between the pipes has helped the Stars to six of their seven wins. Along with Bishop, the Stars acquired Alexander Radulov (11 points) up front, and Marc Methot and Greg Pateryn on the blue line.
Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler
Add in the familiar faces of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin - who lead the way offensively with 14 and 12 points respectively - and the Stars come into Winnipeg having won seven of their last 10 games.
But the Jets are on a roll as well, picking up points in eight of their last nine outings going into tonight's match-up with the Stars, who are wrapping up a five-game road trip.
"We have to capitalize. We want to win in front of our home crowd here," said Shawn Matthias. "We can't feel like we're going to get a tired bunch here. They're going to be coming for us, and we have to be ready."
Following yesterday's practice, the Jets held an optional morning skate today, and head coach Paul Maurice says he plans to go with the same line-up that produced the 2-1 win in Minnesota two nights ago. That includes giving Connor Hellebuyck his third straight start in goal:
That line-up also kept the Wild power play off the board in five opportunities Tuesday night, and overall the team's penalty kill hasn't allowed a goal on the road since the 4-2 win over Vancouver on Oct. 12.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
The penalty kill units will face a challenge tonight against the Stars, who have the top-ranked power play in the NHL at 30.8 per cent.
"We definitely need to be disciplined tonight. They've got a great group of players over there with a lot of offensive abilities," said Matt Hendricks. "Their power play can really hurt you if you give them too many opportunities. We're going to have our hands full with that, but I think discipline will be one of our big details to talk about tonight."
Over the course of the team's 6-1-2 record in the last nine, the Jets have won three one-goal games, and took two others to overtime. While he thinks his team is getting more comfortable in those situations, Maurice isn't reading too much into it this early in the season.
Video: PREGAME | Matt Hendricks
"I wouldn't attach any permanence to any part of our game right now at the eleven game mark. We have to prove it every night, every day," said Maurice. "The better we play, the more we'll play in those games, and the more we'll have to learn how to get better at the last nine minutes when the score goes to 2-1.
"I suspect if we can continue to play as hard as we're playing, keep the goaltending where it is, the discipline where it is, we should play in a lot of tight games."
Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
Shortly after morning skate, the Winnipeg Jets announced they have assigned Tucker Poolman to the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.
The 24-year-old appeared in three games, including his NHL debut on Oct. 9 against Edmonton.
- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
Video: PREGAME | Shawn Matthias
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets begin a quick two-game homestand tonight against the Dallas Stars, who are making their first visit to Bell MTS Place this season...The Jets beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 Tuesday night in St. Paul to extend their point streak to five games (3-0-2)...Winnipeg welcomes the Montreal Canadiens to Bell MTS Place on Saturday before embarking on a three-game road trip to Dallas, Vegas and Arizona.
Jets vs. Stars Notes
- The Jets went 4-1-0 against the Stars last season and have won five of the last six meetings.
- The Jets are 11-8-1 against the Stars since the franchise moved to Winnipeg in 2011.
- The Jets have scored at least four goals in each of their last four games against Dallas (21 goals total).
- Mark Scheifele has 17 points (7G, 10A) in an eight-game point streak against Dallas.
- Blake Wheeler has 22 points (7G, 15A) in 22 career games against the Stars.
- Rookie Patrik Laine had eight goals and 12 points in five games against the Stars last season, including two of his three hat tricks as a rookie.
Bountiful October Harvest
The Jets went 6-3-2 in October, coming within a point of matching their franchise record 7-3-1 October record from 2015...In their 17th season, the franchise has posted a winning record in October six times (2003, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017).
Finding a Way
Since March 13/17, the Jets have a 16-5-3 record, which is fourth-best in the NHL...Winnipeg has earned 73% of the possible 48 points in the 24 games...Thirteen of the 24 games been decided by one goal...The Jets haven't lost any of those 13 games in regulation going 10-0-3.
The Jets have allowed one goal in regulation in each of their last four games...After allowing 13 goals in their first two games, Winnipeg has given up only 19 goals in their last nine games, which is tied with the San Jose Sharks for the fewest goals against in the NHL since Oct. 8/17.
Winnipeg has defeated the Wild twice this season to start the 2017-18 campaign 2-0-0 against Central Division foes...The Jets finished 19-8-2 against Central Division teams last season, including 12-6-1 against the four Central Division teams that went to the playoffs (Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis)...The Jets tied for a share of the best record in games played within the Central Division, 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)...Only seven of Winnipeg's first 31 games this season are against a Central Division opponent and two of the seven games are against Dallas.
After allowing four power play goals in the first two games this season, the Jets have gone 27 for-31 (87.1%) on the penalty kill in their last nine games (6th in the NHL since Oct. 8/17), including 15-for-16 in their last four games...The Jets haven't allowed a power play goal in five of the nine games and haven't allowed multiple power play goals in a game since the second game of the season.
Stats Deep Dive
Winnipeg's 6-3-2 record has been buoyed by a 10.7% shooting percentage, which is seventh in the NHL...Combined with a 91.5% save percentage, the Jets 102.2 PDO is also seventh in the NHL...This has allowed the Jets to have a winning record despite a league worst 44.2% shots attempted percentage and 57.5% defensive zone start percentage.
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (6-0-1) matched Pasi Nurminen's franchise point streak record (4-0-3 in 2003) to start a season with his sixth win of the season on Tuesday...Hellebuyck posted his sixth quality start (sv% in game above league average) of the season in Tuesday's win, which was his seventh start of the season...He has a .857 quality start percentage, which leads all NHL goaltenders that have made at least six starts...Last season he only had a .472 quality start percentage (25-of-53)...Hellebuyck is the only goaltender in the NHL that has made at least six starts and is undefeated in regulation...His .940 save percentage is tied for fourth in the NHL.
Nikolaj Ehlers tallied his third game-winning goal of the season in the third period against Minnesota on Tuesday...He is one off the NHL lead for game-winning goals this season...Ehlers had the first four game-winning goals of his career last season...Blake Wheeler (2) is the other Jets player with multiple game-winning goals this season.