Video: TSN Pre-Game Report
WINNIPEG - No one said it was going to be easy.
The Winnipeg Jets have pulled themselves back to within three points of a playoff spot after reeling off back-to-back wins over the weekend, but the home stand is only half over and their biggest test has yet to come.
Over the next five days beginning tonight with a 7:00pm CT puck drop, the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks, Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and the hottest team in the National Hockey League, the Calgary Flames, will all pay a visit, hoping to spoil Winnipeg's recent run up the standings.
The Jets, who are 5-1-2 in their last eight games, have lost their only two meetings with the Sharks this year, but feel they've learned from their previous matchups and are better prepared for their snarly opponents now.
Video: PREGAME | Shawn Matthias
"I think we're a different team from the last time we played them," said forward Shawn Matthias. "We've had a good stretch here, we got some good, valuable rest, and this is going to be a big game. You look at their big guys, and they're good hockey players. (Norris Trophy frontrunner Brent) Burns is having a great season and we've got to respect that, so we've got to come out with our 'A' effort and collect those two points.
"We've got to leave everything on the ice, we can't hold back anymore."
The Sharks are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild last night and will be the tired team on back-to-back nights, but Head Paul Maurice doesn't expect that to slow them down whatsoever.
"The thing beyond the speed and the skill level, [there is] a connected-ness with how they play, which I think is due to years of playing together," he said. "The way they move off each other, the way they anticipate where the puck is going just because of the repetition and experience they have, it takes a fast team and makes them faster. They read so well and what's going to happen with that because they've seen Burns or (Marc-Edouard) Vlasic make that play before, they're already a half step into their motion because they know where it's going.
"That, for me, is what makes them so hard to handle."
The Jets will be going with the same lineup that produced back-to-back wins over the weekend:
Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Patrik Laine
Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia
Marko Dano - Andrew Copp - Chris Thorburn
Toby Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Josh Morrissey - Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot - Paul Postma
Scratched: F Nic Petan and D Mark Stuart
Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 50 of 51 shots in a pair of weekend victories, will get the start in goal for the Jets. The Sharks, who played last night, did not hold a morning skate and have not confirmed their starting netminder.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
LEADING THE WAY
Blake Wheeler has been, and continues to be, Winnipeg's Mr. Everything.
The now 30-year-old captain has taken the team on his back lately, scoring seven points (2G, 5A) in a pair of weekend victories, giving him 56 points (20G, 36A) in 66 games.
Before the bye week, the coach often said that nobody needed the rest and recovery time more than the captain, and that appears to have been the case. For a player that treats every game and every shift like it's his last, with that kind of intensity, physicality and raw emotion, Wheeler - who's one of only five players to dress in every game to this point - was bound to get banged up, to some degree.
"Most importantly with Blake, and you fire out that 'Lead by Example' line… But he does it in practice, at the morning skate - he drives at such a high level," Maurice said. "Even if a young player didn't want to listen to a coach when he tells him to work harder, you've just got to watch that. That's the level that he expects from himself. He's become such a fantastic leader and captain, and it's great for the young players to see what a great pro looks like."
HERE'S THE SCOPE
The Jets announced earlier today that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has undergone successful arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee and will miss the next 2-3 weeks, at least. Pavelec is expected to return before the end of the year and Maurice did not rule out the possibility of veteran getting back in the net sometime before the Apr. 8 regular-season finale, but there is no official timeline given the nature of this injury and recovery time for a goaltender, in particular.
Pavelec was injured Feb. 7 vs. Minnesota and has missed the past 10 games.
The 29-year-old was making progress and was close to returning last Friday after completing a full practice the day before, but he did not pass the off-ice component of his rehab and has been ruled out ever since.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com
Video: PREGAME | Adam Lowry
JETS GAME NOTES
The Winnipeg Jets continue a six-game home stand tonight against the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks, who are making their second trip to MTS Centre this season…The Jets improved to 2-1-0 on the homestand with a 6-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night…Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and two assists for the Jets on Saturday…Heading into their game tonight on the road against the Minnesota Wild, the Sharks had points in eight consecutive games…Winnipeg continues the homestand Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Goals, Goals, Goals
The Jets have scored at least three goals in each of their last eight games, including five or more three times - Feb. 14 vs. DAL 5-2 W, Feb. 28 vs. MIN 6-5 L and Mar. 4 vs. COL 6-1 W…Winnipeg is averaging an even 4.0 goals per game in their last eight contests, during which the team has gone 5-1-2…The Jets are 27-8-4 when scoring three or more goals in a game this season.
In Like a Lion
The Jets have roared into March with back-to-back wins and are 5-1-2 in their last eight games…Since Feb. 14, the Jets are tied for second in the NHL with 12 points…Winnipeg is also second with 32 goals during that span.
Trying for Three, Again
With the two wins in their last two games, the Jets have won back-to-back games 12 times this season…Winnipeg's only three-game winning streak happened Jan. 29-Feb. 2…Dating back to last season, the Jets are 2-17-3 in games when they have the opportunity to win three consecutive games.
Tonight is Winnipeg's first game against a Pacific Division team since a 4-3 loss to San Jose at MTS Centre on Jan. 24…The Jets are 5-9-1 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 (0-6-0)…The Jets play six of their next 12 games against Pacific Division teams…Last season, the Jets went 12-8-1 against Pacific Division opponents.
The Road Ahead
The Jets enter tonight's game two points back of the Los Angeles Kings for the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but the Kings have a game in hand…Of the 16 games the Jets have left in the regular season, 12 are against teams currently holding a playoff spot…The Jets have a combined record of 12-16-0 this season against the teams they have remaining on their schedule.
The Jets are in a stretch of 11 of 15 games at MTS Centre…The Jets have played 34 games on the road this season, compared to 32 games at home…The Jets continue to be one of the teams to have played the most games in the NHL this season with 66, which is tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the most in the league, and five games more than the Carolina Hurricanes, who have played the least.
Special Teams Notes
- The Jets are 3-for-18 (16.7%) on the power play in their last four games and have scored a power play goal in back-to-back games.
- The Jets are a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill in their last two games.
- The Jets have played 37:10 more on the power play than on the penalty kill at home this season, but have played 47:35 more on the penalty kill than on the power play on the road.
- The Jets have been shorthanded 77 times in the third period this season, which is the most in the league.
Wall of Helle
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has stopped 51 of 52 shots in the last two games for a .981 save percentage…He's started the last 10 games for the Jets, going 5-2-2 with .914 save percentage...Among goaltenders that have played 1,000 minutes or more this season, Hellebuyck is tied for fifth in the NHL with a .948 save percentage in games the goaltender's team wins.
Blake Wheeler's three-point night on Saturday was his second consecutive three-point game…It marked the first time this season he had two points or more in back-to-back games.
Plenty of Finnish
Patrik Laine scored his 32nd goal of the season Saturday against Colorado, which leads all NHL rookies and is second behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the most goals in the NHL this season…Laine's 58 points (32g, 26a) leads all NHL rookies - three more points than Toronto's Auston Matthews in six less games…Laine is the only rookie averaging a point per game this season…Laine is tied for the sixth most goals by an 18-year-old rookie in NHL history…The only 18-year-old rookie in NHL history to score 40 goals in a season is former Winnipeg Jet Dale Hawerchuk, who had 45 goals during the 1981-82 season…Since representing the Jets at the NHL All-star Game, Laine has 17 points (9g, 8a) in 12 games. Laine needs 18 points in his last 17 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.
Dustin Byfuglien (2g, 7a) and Mathieu Perreault (3g, 8a) are on seven-game point streaks, which is one game shy of Patrik Laine's team-high eight-game point streak earlier this season…Blake Wheeler (3g, 5a) has points in four straight games.
Jets vs. Sharks All-Time Records
At MTS Centre: 2-4-0