WINNIPEG - Dustin Byfuglien returns to the Winnipeg Jets line-up as they play their final home game of the regular season tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
Byfuglien has missed the last 19 games with a lower-body injury and is expected to be paired with Ben Chiarot, who he skated with as part of yesterday's full practice.
"I know what he's trying to do out there and I just read off him. That's how I've always been with him," Chiarot said. "He's a guy I've played a lot with here. Obviously he's one of the premier defencemen in the league and someone who has a big effect on the game. It will be nice to have him back."
The right-handed Byfuglien has played in 37 games this season and only five since Dec. 29.
In fact, when he returned from the lower-body injury he suffered in that Dec. 29 contest against the Minnesota Wild, it was also against the Canadiens on Feb. 7.
While the Jets (45-28-4) only held an optional skate at Bell MTS Place on Saturday morning, the full second power play unit participated in that skate.
Video: PREGAME | Jacob Trouba
That's where Jets head coach Paul Maurice plans to have Byfuglien play, leaving the first unit with Jacob Trouba, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Patrik Laine intact.
That group of five has scored nine of Winnipeg's last 10 power play goals.
"They've been pretty darn good over the last little while. We scored one last game, hit a post, and had a great chance down the pipe," said Maurice.
"Dustin has played less than half of a hockey season for us. So we have to work him in a little bit. But the first one is always performance and I've liked the performance of the group as it is."
Nikolaj Ehlers is a staple of that second Jets power play unit. He's looking forward to having Byfuglien's presence in the line-up for the first time since Feb. 14.
"The way he plays the game, he's a skill player," said Ehlers. "He can throw his body around obviously, but it's also off the ice. He comes in with some jokes - I don't know how to say it.
"He's a great guy. He's got a great personality. He's a fun guy to be around. The last couple days he's been practicing with the guys, it's been a little different."
Based on Friday's practice, the Jets line-up is expected to look like this:
Maurice was tailored the Jets line-up depending on the opponent the last few games leaving Roslovic on the outside looking in. But against a speedy Canadiens team battling for their playoff lives, Maurice has put Roslovic back in a familiar spot with Andrew Copp and Mathieu Perreault.
"Just play his butt off," Maurice said when asked what he'd like to see from Roslovic. "Get ready to play playoff hockey. Grind it when you're supposed to and play fast. Use all your assets, your tools and your skills.
"Play at the playoff level."
Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers
The Canadiens (41-29-8) are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But Columbus has three more regulation and overtime wins, putting them inside the playoff line while Montreal is on the outside.
The Jets meanwhile are looking to bounce back from a tough loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday - their second straight setback on home ice.
"We just have to get back to playing how we know we can play," said Trouba. "There were stretches of it in the last game. We didn't like the ending, but move on, put it behind you. We know what we're capable of, we just have to put it on the ice."
As for the Jets, they hold the tiebreaker for the Nashville Predators for top spot in the Central Division - as well as a game in hand.
Both teams have 94 points and play tonight. Nashville is in Columbus, while the Jets play their final home game of the season before heading out on the road for four games to close out the regular season schedule.
"It feels like the build toward the end. We're pushing for something, but the big one is getting wired up for the games. There seems to be a bit more energy around the room," Maurice said.
"You look at our last five games, we're getting the same team, the same set of circumstances and everyone is aware of that. You know you have to be wired right and get excited for this game."
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets play their last home game of the regular season tonight when the Montreal Canadiens visit Bell MTS Place...The Jets are 1-2-0 during the four-game homestand after losing 5-4 to the New York Islanders on Thursday night...The Jets play their final four games of the regular season on the road, beginning Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Jets clinched their spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with their win last Saturday against the Nashville Predators...It's the first time in franchise history that the Jets have reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons...Winnipeg has a two-point lead on the Predators for first place in the Central Division...The magic number for the Jets to clinch its first divisional title since relocation is nine...If the playoffs started today, the Jets would host the Dallas Stars, who hold the Western Conference's first wild card spot, in the first round of the playoffs.
Winnipeg has the fourth-best home record in the NHL this season at 25-11-4...The Jets have points in 14 of their past 19 home games (12-5-2), which included a seven-game winning streak from Jan. 6-Feb. 2...The Jets have the second-best power play at home in the NHL this season at 31.4% and have scored a power play goal in seven of their past eight home games (7-for-24, 29.2%)...Winnipeg's 38 power play goals at home this season is second in the NHL...The Jets have a 57-18-6 record at Bell MTS Place during the past two seasons, which is the third best home record in the NHL...The Jets have scored 150 goals at home this season, which is third in the NHL, and have outscored their opposition 118-59 in their 25 wins.
Winnipeg plays its final game against an Eastern Conference team tomorrow...The Jets are 18-11-2 against Eastern Conference teams this season, including 7-6-2 against the Atlantic Division...Winnipeg went 19-7-6 against the Eastern Conference last season, including a 10-3-3 record versus the Atlantic Division and 9-4-3 record against the Metropolitan Division...The Jets are 5-3-1 in their past nine games against an Eastern Conference opponent...Blake Wheeler (10G, 28A) leads the Jets with 38 points in 31 games against the Eastern Conference.
March and April have historically been successful months for the Jets, as the team has gone 85-57-15 in those two months since relocation...During the past three seasons, the Jets are 35-14-2 in March and April, including a perfect 8-0-0 in April...Blake Wheeler is the franchise's leading scorer in March with 122 points (47G, 75A) in 132 games...Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is 18-9-2 in March during his career with a 2.68 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Blake Wheeler had an assist on Thursday to reach 69 assists this season, which ties Marc Savard's franchise record for most assists in a season from the 2005-06 season...His assist on Thursday ended a four-game pointless streak...With 89 points (20G, 69A), Wheeler is guaranteed to have better than a point per game this season for the second consecutive season... Wheeler has scored 20 goals or more in six consecutive seasons...During the past four seasons, Wheeler's 237 assists are second most in the NHL.
VIEW FULL GAME NOTES
Kyle Connor is the NHL's reigning first star of the week after he racked up eight points (5G, 3A) in three games, including his first career hat trick last Saturday against the Nashville Predators...Connor continued his torrid pace with a goal and an assist on Monday against Dallas...He has a career high 33 goals, 30 assists and 63 points this season...Connor has 19 points (11G, 8A) in his past 18 games, which includes six multi-point games.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba has seven assists in his past six games to reach 40 assists in a season for the first time in his career...Trouba leads Jets defencemen in scoring with a career-high 46 points and also has a career-high 0.60 points per game.
Double Digit Goal Scorers
Adam Lowry scored twice in the first period on Thursday to become the 10th Jets player to reach double digit goal totals this season...Tyler Myers needs one more goal this season to make it 11 Jets players with double digit goals...The Jets only had eight players reach 10 goals last season.
Brandon Tanev had a goal and two assists on Monday for his first three-point game of the season...He had one point in his previous 17 games...Tanev has set a franchise record for hits in a season with 272 (and counting) and has been credited with a hit in 74 of his 77 games this season.