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GAME DAY: Jets return home to face Canucks

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

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

Video: TSN Pre-Game Report

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets will be without their top defenceman, Dustin Byfuglien, and rookie sensation Patrik Laine will be a game-time decision as the Jets host the Vancouver Canucks for a 7:00pm CT puck drop (Sportsnet, TSN1290) tonight at MTS Centre.

Byfuglien suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday's loss to the LA Kings. He is officially day-to-day and is expected to return for the Jets' next game, Tuesday in New Jersey.

Laine, meanwhile, did not take part in the morning skate as he has come down with an illness. The Jets will make a decision on his playing status around 5:00pm CT, according to Head Coach Paul Maurice.

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

If Laine is unable to play, Marko Dano will draw back in, while some juggling in the top two lines will help balance the offence:

Andrew Copp - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Mathieu Perreault
Brandon Tanev - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia
Nic Petan - Marko Dano - Chris Thorburn

Julian Melchiori - Jacob Trouba
Brian Strait - Josh Morrissey
Mark Stuart - Nelson Nogier

Michael Hutchinson will get the start in goal for the Jets for the second straight game, looking to improve on his 6-12-3 record, along with his .900 save percentage and 3.06 goals-against average.

Hutchinson has seen action three of the last four games, and has allowed only four goals on 73 shots.

"He's played well," Maurice said. "He's had some other stretches through the year where he's put some good games together. Connor (Hellebuyck) ran 16 straight (games), and now that he's had a couple days off the grind, he can work on some things and get his game back, which is important, too."

The Canucks, who are closing out a five-game road trip, will counter with Ryan Miller.

The Canucks are coming off a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild yesterday, thanks in part to Reid Boucher's first career two-goal game, a tally from former UND star Brock Boeser - a 2015 first-round pick who signed with the Canucks less than 24 hours after his college season ended - and 25 saves from Richard Bachman.

The Canucks, like the Jets, are no longer in contention for a playoff spot, but are playing out the string with some pride, having won four of their last six road games, including a pair over the top two teams in the Central.

"You usually go into a game with a pretty good idea of what their lines will look like and how that functions," Maurice said. "They're feeling good and excited [coming] off a win, and that's what they're looking for now - the same as us - that good feeling. They're going to be looking for that fairly early on in this game and we've got to work hard to take that away from them."

Video: PREGAME | Adam Lowry

Adam Lowry, who recently set a new career high in goals with 12, says that while this game may not mean much in terms of their place in the standings, there's plenty to play for.

"I think when you look at these games, it's important that we try to utilize them as much as possible and get as much growth out of them as possible," he said. "We've made some changes on special teams and we're trying to implement those (systems) right now. It's a learning process and sometimes it doesn't look the prettiest, but once we get those implemented and down pat, you should start to see an improvement. That's what we're trying to do - use this time so that next year we can get into the regular season and start off solid and hopefully be in a better position at this time next year."

SPEAKING OF SPECIAL TEAMS

The Jets may have a power-play goal in a season high six straight games, going 6-for-23 (26.1%) in that span, but overall, the team is anything but satisfied with their recent run on special teams.

Winnipeg has been shorthanded a league-high 259 times this year, and with a penalty kill that's operating at just over 76 percent (ranked 29th), discipline has been the determining factor in games more often than not this year.

"You go through slumps and your special teams are no different," said Bryan Little, who isn't particularly pleased with the power play, either, calling its recent production "ugly."

Video: PREGAME | Bryan Little

"The thing that good teams are good at is being consistent with it. That's something we want to get better at."

The Jets allowed three power play goals in a 5-2 loss to the Kings on Thursday.

Maurice referred to discipline and the PK, in general, as the "single biggest thing" the team is working on and needs to address right now.

"It's a huge hole," he said.

The Jets were one of the league's most penalized teams a few years ago as well when they made the playoffs, but the makeup of that team - big, physical - combined with a Top 5 penalty kill for much of the year helped lessen its impact.

Over time, things change.

"The style of penalty has changed a lot for us," Maurice said. "We took a different kind of penalty with a different mindset a few years ago and survived it because of our kill. The combination of what we've got running now is not sustainable."

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets play the Vancouver Canucks tonight for the third and final time this season, but first time at MTS Centre…Winnipeg is coming off a pair of losses in California, including a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night…Josh Morrissey scored the only goal for the Jets against the Ducks, while goaltender Michael Hutchinson stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced…The Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 yesterday and finish a four-game road trip tonight…Following tonight's game, the Jets are back on the road for a rescheduled game against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Even at Home

With a pair of wins on home ice last week, the Jets got back to .500 at MTS Centre with an 18-18-1 record…Prior to the Christmas break, the Jets were 10-6-1 at home and are 8-12-0 at home since then.

Outside the Central

The Jets have the opportunity tonight to defeat a non-divisional team twice for the third time this season…The Jets went 2-1-0 against the Arizona Coyotes and won both games against the Florida Panthers…Winnipeg is 16-27-5 against teams outside the Central Division this season.

Pacific Blues

Tonight is the third of three consecutive games the Jets play against Pacific Division teams…The Jets are 5-13-1 against Pacific Division teams this season and have yet to beat one of the three teams in the division currently holding a divisional playoff spot - Anaheim, San Jose and Edmonton (0-8-0)…Last season, the Jets went 12-8-1 against Pacific Division opponents.

The Road Ahead

The Jets are 12 points back of the Nashville Predators for the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference and the Predators have two games in hand…Of the seven games the Jets have left in the regular season, five are against teams currently holding a playoff spot…Winnipeg's tragic number for being eliminated from playoff contention is three.

Special Teams Notes

- The Jets scored a power play goal in a season-high six consecutive games (6-for-23, 26.1%).
- The last time the Jets scored more than one power play goal in a game was Jan. 21 vs. STL - a span of 26 games.
- The Jets are 13-for-17 (76.5%) on the penalty kill in their last five games.
- Winnipeg has been shorthanded the most in the NHL this season at 259 times.
- The Jets have been shorthanded 86 times in the third period this season, which is the most in the league.

Iron Man Mo

With Dustin Byfuglien missing Friday's game in Anaheim, rookie defencemen Josh Morrissey is the only Jets defencemen to play in all 75 games this season…The Jets have used 11 defenceman this season…Morrissey has played the most games of any rookie defenceman in the NHL this season and is ninth in average ice time for rookie defenceman at 19:21…Morrissey is also third among NHL rookie defencemen with 125 blocked shots and fourth in hits with 133.

Streaking Perreault

Mathieu Perreault is on a five-game point streak (3g, 5a)…He's the only member of the Jets currently on a point streak…He's factored into all three of Winnipeg's goals on the two-game road trip and has factored into seven of Winnipeg's last 11 goals in the last four games…Since Feb. 16, Perreault has 19 points (6g, 13a) in 16 games, which is tied with Mark Scheifele for the team lead in scoring.

Back on Top

Patrik Laine scored his 34th goal of the season Thursday night against Los Angeles to regain the NHL rookie scoring lead with 61 points (34g, 27a) in 67 games, which is one more than Auston Matthews who has played in six more games…Laine is tied for fourth in NHL goal scoring this season.

Jets vs. Canucks All-Time Records

Overall: 9-19-3
At Rogers Arena: 4-0-1

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