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GAME DAY: Laine, Matthews square off in Toronto

6:30pm CT - TV: TSN3; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

Video: JetsTV Road Report

TORONTO, ON - Two names that will forever be linked together - Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews - meet again tonight.

Chapter one was written back in Winnipeg, and tonight the top two picks from the 2016 NHL Draft meet again as the Winnipeg Jets (28-29-5) close out a four-game road trip in Toronto.

Just don't expect them to feed the rivalry talk.

"We're focused on playing against the Maple Leafs," said Laine, talking down any chatter of a rivalry between he and Matthews. "I think both of us are good players. I don't like comparing myself to him… We're different players. I just want to focus on my game."

Video: PREGAME | Patrik Laine

Laine, who was named the NHL's First Star of the Week yesterday for his five goals and eight points in Winnipeg's four games, would rather focus on finishing the road trip with a win over the Maple Leafs.

The Jets are 2-0-1 on the trip, and have collected seven of a possible eight points in the last four games, drawing them to within one of Calgary for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

"We're going to need the points. We're in a tight spot and we're close to a playoff spot," said Laine. "We're going to need every point we can get. It's a huge game for everybody, and hopefully we can win."

Matthews also preferred to focus on the playoff push, rather than comparing his play to Laine's. Toronto (27-20-11) sits one point back of a wildcard spot in the East, having won two of their last six games, including the 4-0 victory over Carolina on Sunday.

"Obviously Patrik is a very good player. I think there is a lot of respect there, but at the same time, you don't get too focused on that stuff around you," said Matthews. "All in all, it's an important two points for both teams. We're both in pretty similar situations and these are valuable points on the line for both of us, so it's going to be a pretty intense game."

Video: PREGAME | Auston Matthews

Jacob Trouba will miss tonight's game as he serves the first of a two-game suspension handed down from NHL Player Safety yesterday.

"The bigger problem that we're dealing with now is we have Myers and Enstrom out as well. They played as a shut down pair," said head coach Paul Maurice. "Jacob, and Josh Morrissey - a rookie believe it or not - had taken over that role in our line-up. It's part of the reason that we've played a much better brand of hockey as of late. It's a huge loss for us."

With Trouba out, Ontario native Julian Melchiori will draw into the line-up play his fifth game for the Jets this season. Despite being a left-handed shot, the 25-year-old Melchiori has experience playing both the left and right side on the blue line.

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

But it will be a group effort from all the team's defencemen tonight, as the Jets look to contain a Toronto offence ranked sixth in the NHL in goals scored.

"Obviously we have some really good players out of the line-up on the back end. As a group we have to pick up some of those minutes, and everyone has to do their job," said Morrissey. "You can't replace those guys, but we have to step up as a group to fill that void."

Connor Hellebuyck was the first goaltender off the ice for the Jets, while Frederik Andersen is expected to get the call for Toronto. Puck drop is set for 6:30 pm CT on TSN 3 and TSN 1290.

Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey

LATE HITS

Following yesterday's off day, Tuesday was the first time Laine got to speak about receiving recognition from the NHL as the First Star of the Week.

"It's an honour to be named," Laine said. "The team had a good week, and I was able to produce some good things on the ice."

The 18-year-old has played with multiple centres this season, and has enjoyed success regardless of whether it's Bryan Little or Mark Scheifele feeding him the puck from the middle of the ice.

This week though, it was number 55 who was up the middle, and put up seven assists in his own right the last four games.

"He's an awesome player. It's so easy to play with him. He can see the ice so well," Laine said of Scheifele. "He can make quick, smart passes, and he can also score like everyone has seen. It's been a nice opportunity to play with him and get to know him."

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets finish a four-game Eastern Conference road trip tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre…The Jets defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-2 Sunday evening to run their unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1)…Dustin Byfuglien, Mathieu Perreault and Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets against the Senators, while Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each had two assists…The Maple Leafs enter tonight's game after shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 on Sunday night…After tonight's game, the Jets are off for six days for their player break...Winnipeg's next game is Feb. 28 at MTS Centre against the Minnesota Wild.

Life on the Road

Since Dec. 22, the Jets are 9-4-2 (20 points) on the road, which is good for the third most points on the road in the NHL during that time…The Jets have outscored their opponents 52-44 in the 15 games…The special teams have also been solid with the power play sitting at 21.9% (9-for-41) and the penalty kill at 83.0% (44-for-53)…The Jets were 5-11-2 and outscored 60-37 in their first 18 road games this season.

East Woes Healing

With points in three consecutive games against Eastern Conference opponents, the Jets have improved to 9-13-3 against Eastern Conference teams this season, including 7-6-1 against Atlantic Division teams...Last season the Jets went 12-15-5 against the Eastern Conference.

Special Teams Notes

- The Jets are 1-for-18 (5.6%) on the power play in their last seven games and have gone five consecutive games (0-for-14) without scoring a power play goal.
- The Jets are 16-for-19 (84.2%) on the penalty kill in their last seven games.
- The Jets haven't given up more than one power play goal against in a game since Jan. 3 at TBL - a span of 22 games.
- The Jets have played 35:15 more on the power play than on the penalty kill at home this season, but have played 45:56 more on the penalty kill than on the power play on the road.
- The Jets have been shorthanded 72 times in the third period this season, which is the most in the league.

First Star

Rookie Patrik Laine was named the NHL's First Star of the Week today after recording eight points (5g, 3a) in four games last week, including scoring a hat trick against Dallas on Feb. 14 to become the first player in NHL history to record three hat tricks before his 19th birthday…Laine's 52 points (28g, 24a) leads all NHL rookies, as does his 0.96 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 all the NHL All-star Game, Laine has 11 points (5g, 6a) in nine games…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 24 points in his last 20 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…The first of Laine's NHL leading three hat tricks this season came against Toronto on Oct. 19/16 in his fourth game of the season.

Well Rounded Scheifele

Mark Scheifele's two assists on Sunday against the Senators moved him into a tie with Chicago's Patrick Kane for fifth in NHL scoring with 60 points (25g, 35a)…He's joined by Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and San Jose's Brent Burns as the only players in the NHL with 25 or more goals and 35 or more assists this season…Of the 14 players in the NHL with 25 goals this season, Scheifele's 20.3% shooting percentage is second only to New York Rangers forward Michael Grabner, who has a 20.5 % shooting percentage.

Connect Four

During the Jets last four games, Connor Hellebuyck is 3-0-1 with a .930 save percentage…It's the fifth time this season he's posted a plus-.925 cumulative save percentage in a span of four consecutive games.

Jets vs. Maple Leafs All-Time Records

Overall: 26-24-6
At Air Canada Centre: 11-12-4

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