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GAME DAY: Jets visit Sabres to close out road trip

12:00pm CT - TV: TSN3; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

Video: JetsTV Road Report

BUFFALO, NY - The Winnipeg Jets traded sand for snow Friday morning when they hopped on a plane from Florida to Buffalo to wrap up a three-game road trip against the Sabres.

Thanks to back-to-back wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, the Jets have won two in a row for the eighth time this season. Captain Blake Wheeler liked what he saw from the team in those wins, and looks forward to tomorrow's matinee against the Sabres.

"Sweeping Florida is never really an easy thing, especially on back-to-backs. I think we can be coming into (Saturday) with some confidence," he said. "We're trying to do the right things, we're coming back to the puck, and moving it up and transitioning a little bit faster than we have been. Those things seem to come when you're playing with confidence."

The season series finale with Buffalo is also an opportunity to get that elusive third straight win, something the Jets haven't been able to do this season.

Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler

"You can't say that you're a finished product after getting two wins. The theme of our season has been inconsistency. We've looked really good some games, then failed to put together a long stretch of playing that way," Wheeler said. "I guess it's to be expected with a young team. We're into the second half of the season now.

"Guys have played enough games to realize what type of team we are, and we're going to look for a complete buy in here. If we do that, we've shown we can win games."

At 14-15-9, the Sabres return to KeyBank Center following a road trip that saw them take three of a possible four points. They were just over two minutes away from getting all four, but the Chicago Blackhawks scored late in regulation and stole a 4-3 overtime win from Buffalo on Thursday night.

"We've seen Chicago do that to just about everybody. Wait until it's late and win the game," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "I think Buffalo has played hard and played well in almost all of their games. They've battled hard. They're going to compete hard and skate. They're going to be a physical team."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

Physical is right. Buffalo ranks 10th in the NHL with 920 hits thrown so far this season, but they're looking up at the Jets who, at 958, sit seventh. Winnipeg's record of 19-19-3 has them closer to a playoff spot in the West (one point out) than the Sabres are in the East (eight points back), but Nic Petan says the Sabres aren't a team to be taken lightly.

In fact, it was the Sabres that halted Winnipeg's first two-game win streak of the season back in October at MTS Centre - a 3-1 decision. Buffalo also got good news in a losing cause to Chicago, with 25-year-old Ryan O'Reilly returning to the line-up after missing four games due to an appendectomy.

"We don't look at any team differently," Petan said. "There are tons of upsets every night. If we come out strong like we did against Tampa and Florida, we'll be fine."

Video: PREGAME | Nic Petan

Maurice confirmed Connor Hellebuyck (15-12-1, 2.70 goals against average) will make his fourth consecutive start tomorrow afternoon. In front of him, the lines at Friday's practice remained the same as they were in the wins over Florida and Tampa Bay.

"It has been six games that we've been pretty close to the line-up that we thought we'd start the season with," said Maurice. "Our last two, a lot of the smaller pieces of chemistry, of cohesion, start coming together - things like line changes, shift length, all those details.

"I haven't moved the lines around at all for a while. They've spent time with each other, and we'd like to continue that if possible."

Puck drop is noon Central Time.

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

Video: PREGAME | Mathieu Perreault

JETS GAME NOTES

Saturday's Game

The Winnipeg Jets finish a three-game road trip on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres…The Jets earned back-to-back wins in Florida earlier this week, winning 6-4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and 4-1 against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday…Patrik Laine (1g, 1a) and Bryan Little (2a) each had a pair of points to lead the Jets on Wednesday…The Sabres have points in each of their first two games of 2017…The Jets play a pair of home games to begin next week, as they welcome the Calgary Flames to MTS Centre on Monday and Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Four for the Road

For the first time this season, the Jets have won four straight games on the road…Winnipeg has outscored their opponents 17-7 in the four games…Tuesday's 6-4 win in Tampa Bay is the only time during the streak the Jets allowed more than one goal in a game…It's the first time the Jets have won four in a row on the road since Jan. 15-Feb. 13/16 of last season, with two of those wins coming in a shootout.

Back-to-Back Wins

With the two wins in Florida this week, the Jets have won back-to-back games eight times this season and can win three straight for the first time this season with a victory this afternoon...Last season, the Jets won back-to-back games 10 times, but didn't win three in a row until winning the final four games of the season…Dating back to last season, the Jets are 1-15-2 in games that would give them a three-game winning streak.

Top Line Production

Sophomore Nikolaj Ehlers, rookie Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele, who is in his fourth full season in the NHL, lead the Jets in scoring during the last two months…Since Nov. 4, Ehlers has 31 points (11g, 20a), while Laine has 28 points (15g, 13a) and Scheifele has 27 points (12g, 15a)…The trio have scored 38 of the 84 goals (45.2%) the Jets have scored since Nov. 4 and 50 of the 111 goals (45%) the Jets have scored this season.

Let's Go Streaking

Jacob Trouba leads four Jets who are on point streaks with a five-game, seven-point (1g, 6a) streak…It's the longest point streak of Trouba's career…Patrik Laine (2g, 4a), Nikolaj Ehlers (4g, 1a) and Mark Scheifele (2g, 2a) are on three-game point streaks.

Leading Laine

With his six-point outburst in his last three games, Patrik Laine regained the NHL's rookie scoring lead with 36 points (21g, 15a) in 41 games…He's also now tied with Mark Scheifele for the team scoring lead…Laine's 21 goals are tied with Jeff Carter for second in the NHL, five behind Sidney Crosby's 26…Of Laine's 11 multi-point games, nine have come as part of a larger point streak.

Beasts in the East

The Jets are 7-10-2 against Eastern Conference teams this season, but most of their success has come against Atlantic Division teams with a 5-3-1 record…Of the seven wins against the East, three have come in overtime or a shootout - Oct. 13 vs. CAR 5-4 OTW, Oct. 19 vs. TOR 5-4 OTW and Dec. 15 vs. FLA 4-2 SOW…Wednesday's win gave the Jets back-to-back wins against Eastern Conference opponents for the first time this season…The Jets play the last of five consecutive games against an Eastern Conference team this afternoon (2-2-0).

Special Teams Notes

- The Jets are 6-for-22 (27.3%) on the power play in their last seven games and have scored at least one power play goal in five of their last seven games.  
- The Jets went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill on Wednesday to end three-game streak of giving up a power play goal against.
 
Quick Hits

- The Jets are second in the NHL with 154 takeaways on the road this season and third with 560 hits.
- Nikolaj Ehlers leads the Jets on the road this season with 22 points (9g, 13a) in 22 games.
- Dustin Byfuglien leads all NHLers with 1,118:25 TOI this season and 27:16 TOI per game.
- Chris Thorburn is tied for the NHL lead with nine major penalties this season, all of which are fighting majors.

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