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GAME DAY: Jets vs Rangers

7:00 pm CT - TV: TSN 3; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Following a three-game road trip, the Winnipeg Jets are back in the friendly confines of Bell MTS Place to begin a three-game stretch inside the building where their 20-6-3 record is the second best in the National Hockey League.

The Jets have points in each of their last eight home games (going 7-0-1) in that span. They hope to build on that success tonight against the New York Rangers.

"This is a real fast team. They have some real good finish around that net and some good skill," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "They've got lots of really good pieces. They're playing fast. They're still fighting for their lives and why wouldn't you? We like the speed component. If we feel we're prepared for it, we feel we can skate with them. They're exciting games."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

Winnipeg took the first meeting between the two teams back in early December, a 4-3 come from behind shootout win. It's one of six wins the Jets have when trailing through 40 minutes this season.

Kyle Connor had five of his team's 42 shots in that game. It's one he remembers well.

"It was a hard-fought game. I think the teams have both grown since then," said Connor. "We're going to see a little bit of a different game here tonight. We expect them to play fast. Our game is playing in their end and holding onto pucks."

During that particular road trip, the Jets won all three games against the Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders.

The most recent trip wasn't as successful, with 5-2 losses in Montreal and Ottawa to start the trip, before a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres ended the trip on a winning note.

"You're not going to be amazing every night," said Adam Lowry, referencing the loss to Montreal. 

"I liked how we played in Ottawa. Obviously the result isn't what we wanted. In Buffalo, they're a team that's trying to put up points right now. They're fighting for their playoff lives and they're a desperate team. To come in and be able to clamp down and only give up one goal, that's huge."

Video: PREGAME | Adam Lowry

The win over the Sabres kept the Jets two points up on the Nashville Predators for first in the Central Division with two games in hand. Maurice said following the game in Buffalo that "nothing is easy" for his team on the ice right now, but the Jets (35-18-3) aren't hiding from any adversity they may face this season. In fact, Maurice thinks it's important his team faces it head on.

"You're fighting for consistency all the time. We've been a pretty consistent team this year. We've had some injuries, some long-term, big-name injuries. But we haven't faced a whole stretch of hockey that we didn't really like our game," Maurice said.

"Adversity isn't something that we're going to panic about getting out of our room. We try to deal with it. Embrace isn't the right word, but certainly live it. Deal with what we're going through. I don't think things are real easy for us in a lot of areas, but I thought we worked our way through it in Buffalo."

The next challenge the Jets face is the Rangers, who at 24-23-8 sit nine points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

Video: PREGAME | Kyle Connor

That being said, the Rangers are also 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, including a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

Offensively, the Rangers are led by Mika Zibanejad, who has 54 points this season. His 23 goals are second most on the team, one back of Chris Kreider.

"They've been playing with a lot of pace lately. I watched their game against the Kings not too long ago," said Lowry. "They've got some speed and Zibanajad been putting up a lot of points. It's going to be important that we try to clamp down on that line. You always have to be aware of those guys on the ice. They're always looking to attack off turnovers and things like that."

Connor Hellebuyck will get the start in goal for the Jets with puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.

ICE CHIPS

Dmitry Kulikov participated in the morning skate but will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury. Maurice said the club is being cautious with Kulikov's ailment, as they are with Nikolaj Ehlers.

The window for Ehlers' return is coming up quickly.

"He's coming to that window that we're hoping to get him back on the ice in full practice. Maybe there is a chance he plays in game three of this home stand. I'm not working under the impression that we'd push for that," said Maurice of Ehlers. "We're hopeful, we have a three-day block there - our last one of the season - that we can get him back on the ice. We may see him on the road trip."

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets begin a three-game homestand tonight by entertaining the New York Rangers at Bell MTS Place...The Jets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Sunday afternoon to finish 1-2 on a three-game road trip...The homestand continues Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Back Home

Winnipeg has the second-best home record in the NHL at 20-6-3, but had their seven-game winning streak end last Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks...The Jets have a point in their past eight games at home (7-0-1) and 12 of their last 14 contests at Bell MTS Place (11-2-1)...The Jets have the best power play at home in the NHL this season at 34.8% and have gone 4-for-13 (30.8%) in the past three home games...Winnipeg's 31 power play goals at home this season is first in the NHL...The Jets have a 52-13-5 record at Bell MTS Place during the past two seasons, making it the toughest building in the NHL for opposing teams to play...The Jets have scored 114 goals at home this season, which is tied for second in the NHL, and have outscored their opposition 108-49 in their 20 wins.

Getting Their Shots In

Winnipeg has given up 1,861 shots this season, which is fourth most in the NHL...The Jets have allowed 624 shots in first periods and 667 in second periods, but only 552 in third periods...Winnipeg has a minus-34 shot differential in first periods and minus-74 in second periods, but a plus-14 shot differential in third periods...The Jets are one of only two teams in the NHL this season with negative shot differential in first and second periods, but a positive shot differential in third periods...Despite the shot differential, the Jets have a positive goal differential in every period, including plus-20 in third periods.

Yawning Cage

Mark Scheifele's empty net goal against Buffalo on Sunday was Winnipeg's 15th empty net goal of the season, which is a franchise record for most empty goals in a season...The Jets scored 13 empty net goals in each of the last three seasons, which is tied for the second most in a season...Since relocation, Blake Wheeler leads the Jets with 20 empty net goals, which is also a franchise record...Kyle Connor leads the Jets this season with four empty net goals.

Eastbound

The Jets are 14-8-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season, including 8-3-0 against the Metropolitan Division...Winnipeg is in a stretch of seven of nine games against Eastern Conference teams...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...Blake Wheeler leads the Jets with 27 points (3G, 24A) in 22 games against the Eastern Conference, while Mark Scheifele has 26 points (14G, 12A) in 22 games.

Busy Time

The Jets are in a stretch of 11 games (4-3-1) in 20 days...Winnipeg went 6-3-0 in nine games in 16 days leading into the break...The Jets are in the midst of playing their last 34 games of the regular season in 69 days.

February Producers

Seventeen of the 19 players that have played in Winnipeg's five games in February have at least one point...Bryan Little (3G, 2A) and Jacob Trouba (5A) lead the Jets in scoring this month with five points in five games...Josh Morrissey is also at a point per game pace with four assists in four games.

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Carrying the Mail

Winnipeg's top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor have tallied four of Winnipeg's past eight even-strength goals, including both on Sunday against Buffalo...Since Jan. 1, they are three of Winnipeg's top four scorers...Wheeler (6G, 11A) leads the Jets with 17 points in 17 games in 2019, while Scheifele (6G, 10A) has 16 points and Connor (9G, 6A) has 15 points.

In Pursuit

After netting four points (2G, 2A) in his first 25 games, Andrew Copp has 11 points (3G, 8A) in his past 18 games since Dec. 31/18...He has a point in four of his past six games and tallied his first shorthanded goal of the season on Sunday against the Sabres...He's tallied seven (3G, 4A) of his 15 points this season in third periods.

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