Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets will be getting a big boost on the blue line tonight as Toby Enstrom draws back into the lineup after missing the past five games with a lower-body injury.
Enstrom will skate alongside Dustin Byfuglien on the top D pair, while Julian Melchiori - who filled in for Jacob Trouba last week in Toronto as he served the first of a two-game suspension - will sit this one out.
Enstrom, 32, had surgery on Feb. 16 and was originally slated to miss two-to-three weeks, but is back, and most importantly, feeling strong, only 12 days later.
"I'm still young and I always keep telling myself that, that I heal fast," he said with a smile. "Everything's been doing well this past week so it's great being back out there. This is the time of year when you really want to play the game; it's when the fun starts so it's great being back with the team again."
Video: PREGAME | Toby Enstrom
Adam Lowry did not participate in the game-day skate, but is "fine," according to Head Coach Paul Maurice, and will play tonight.
As a result, the forward lines and D pairs will shake out as follows:
Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler; Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Patrik Laine; Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia; Chris Thorburn - Nic Petan - Drew Stafford
Toby Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien; Josh Morrissey - Ben Chiarot; Mark Stuart - Paul Postma
"Puck movement first, and that's not just in the neutral zone, but from his own end as well, his ability to come back and get (the puck) under heavy pressure," Maurice said of Swede's impact. "He puts it into the middle on the tape and awful lot, and those defensive reads he makes … The thing that we missed with those three guys out in our last game, but especially with Toby being with us all year, he moves the puck and starts the transition very well."
Connor Hellebuyck will start in goal for the Jets, looking to improve on his 20-15-3 record, 2.79 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. Darcy Kuemper will counter for the Wild, with Vezina frontrunner Devan Dubnyk having played last night.
The Jets are currently five points out of a wild-card playoff spot with 19 games left in the regular season. They know they can't afford to have many, if any, nights off the rest of the way, and it starts here tonight as they begin a season-long six-game home stand.
"They're a tough team to play against, just with how well they skate and the pressure they put on you," captain Blake Wheeler said of the Wild. "You don't get many odd-man rushes for. They challenge your willingness to stick with your game plan, so we've got to be simple and not try to do too much. When you're trying to hit seams, that's what they feed off of, and that's where they're dangerous."
Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler
For the Jets, this will be their first game in a week after enjoying the CBA-mandated 'bye week.'
"To sit around for the entire break and not do anything [doesn't work]. You've got to be active, and our guys did a good job of doing that," Wheeler said.
"We had a good practice yesterday and we look excited about a big game tonight."
The Wild, who are coming off a 5-4 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings last night at Xcel Energy Center, have been given a boost over the past few days, acquiring Martin Hanzal and Manitoba native Ryan White in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
White had a goal and an assist in his Minnesota debut, while Hanzal was held off the score sheet.
"They had a bunch of different (forward line) combinations and we'll look for those changes as they get to know their new players," Maurice said. "The first 20 minutes, they looked like a lot of teams coming off the break. They were moving right, but things weren't easy and then it settled into a game."
With the win over the Kings, the Wild improve to 7-1-2 this season in the first of back-to-back games this season. They are 4-3-2 on the second half as they roll into Winnipeg.
Jason Pominville and Zach Parise will miss their second straight game as the forwards were both diagnosed with mumps on Monday.
The NHL trade deadline comes down tomorrow at 2:00pm CT, and while some players in the Winnipeg dressing room have heard their name floating around, they're doing their best to block out the distraction.
Mathieu Perreault, who signed a four-year, $16.5 million extension last summer, is among them, and says he would be surprised of he was on the move at this time tomorrow.
"It's a little different [hearing my name], but I haven't worried too much about it," he said. "The way the team's been playing of late, it's been a lot of fun and I've been enjoying myself, so we'll see what happens.
"It wouldn't make much sense to get traded, but it's out of my control - if it happens, it happens - but right now I'm happy I'm still here."
Video: PREGAME | Mathieu Perreault
Wheeler, meanwhile, has been part of a deadline deal in the past - one that sent him from the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to this franchise back in Atlanta - and says that while he personally isn't worried about being moved, it can be stressful - albeit "interesting" - time for everyone involved.
But that doesn't mean it's a focus for anyone before a big game, like the one the Jets have tonight.
"I'm so focused on the game tonight and trying to claw our way into this playoff discussion. That's where all my attention is right now.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com
Tonight the Jets are proud to host their fifth-annual #HockeyTalks night. #HockeyTalks is a national public awareness campaign for Canadian NHL teams designed to encourage conversations about mental health. The campaign showcases mental health resources and provides information from leading experts, and alleviates some of the misconceptions and stigma associated with mental illness.
Two special videos relating to mental health awareness will also be shown during the course of the game:
Video: TSN Original: The Rick Rypien Story
Video: Project 11 educates youth on mental wellness
To learn more how the True North Youth Foundation works to provide mental health programs and resources for youth, please visit www.projecteleven.ca
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets begin a six-game homestand tonight against the Minnesota Wild, who are making their second of three trips to MTS Centre this season…The Jets are coming off their five-day player break…Prior to the break, the Jets went 2-0-2 on a four-game road trip, which concluded with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Tuesday…The Wild resume their schedule after their player break tonight against the Los Angeles Kings, which ended an eight-game homestand…The Jets continue their homestand this weekend against the St. Louis Blues on Friday and Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
The Jets are 14-7-1 against Central Division teams this season, including 7-2-0 at home…The Jets ended a three-game losing streak against Central Division foes with a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars in their last home game on Feb. 14…Of the Jets seven regulation losses against the Central Division, three have come against Minnesota…tonight concludes a month in which the Jets played seven of 11 games within the Central Division.
Points in Five
With a 3-0-2 mark, the Jets have points in five consecutive games for the second time this season…Winnipeg has outscored its opponents 18-14 in the five games…The Jets have held their opposition to two goals or less in each of the three wins…The first time the Jets earned points in five games was Nov. 27-Dec. 4 when they went 4-0-1.
The Jets play 11 of their next 15 games at MTS Centre…The Jets have played 34 games on the road this season, which is one behind the Edmonton Oilers for the most in the NHL, compared to 29 games at home, which is one shy of the least amount in the NHL…Despite not playing for a week, the Jets continue to be one of the teams that has played the most games in the NHL this season with 63.
Special Teams Notes
- The Jets went 1-for-4 on the power play Tuesday against Toronto to end a five-game power play goal drought.
- The Jets are 19-for-24 (79%) on the penalty kill in their last eight games and have allowed three power play goals against in the last two games.
- The Jets have played 35:15 more on the power play than on the penalty kill at home this season, but have played 47:35 more on the penalty kill than on the power play on the road.
- The Jets have been shorthanded 74 times in the third period this season, which is the most in the league.
Plenty of Finnish
Patrik Laine scored twice against the Maple Leafs last Tuesday to become the first rookie in the NHL this season to score 30 goals…Laine's 54 points (30g, 24a) is tied with Toronto's Auston Matthews for the rookie lead, but Laine leads rookies with 0.98 points per game…He's the first second overall pick to surpass 50 points in his rookie season since Gabriel Landeskog had 52 points with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2011-12 season…Since representing the Jets at the NHL All-star Game, Laine has 13 points (7g, 6a) in 10 games and is on a five-game point streak (7g, 3a)…Laine has the most points by a Finnish rookie since Jussi Jokinen had 55 points for the Dallas Stars during the 2006-07 season…Laine needs 22 points in his last 19 games to pass Jarri Kurri for the second-most points in a season by a Finnish rookie, second only to Teemu Selanne's 132 points while he was playing for the Winnipeg Jets during the 1992-93 season.
Well Rounded Scheifele
Mark Scheifele registered two assists for the second straight game Tuesday against Toronto…He has nine assists in his last five games and is seventh in the NHL with 62 points (25g, 37a) this season…He's joined by Boston's Brad Marchand and San Jose's Brent Burns as the only players in the NHL with 25 or more goals and 37 or more assists this season…Of the 16 players in the NHL with 25 goals this season, Scheifele's has the best shooting percentage at 20.2%.
In addition to Laine's five-game point streak, Dustin Byfuglien (2g, 4a) and Mathieu Perreault (2g, 2a) are on four-game point streaks…Josh Morrissey (1g, 1a) and Mark Scheifele (4a) have points in back-to-back games.
Jets vs. Wild All-Time Records
At MTS Centre: 5-3-1