ST. LOUIS - Nathan Beaulieu has talked openly about how frustrating this season has been for him due to injuries.
The 27-year-old has missed 33 of the 54 games the Winnipeg Jets (26-23-5) have played this season due to three separate injuries. But he gets to put that frustration aside tonight, as he returns to the line-up for the first time since sustaining his most recent injury on New Year's Eve.
He's ready for everything tonight's divisional tilt will bring, especially with the Jets sitting three points back of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
"Every point and every game matters. We know where we're sitting in the standings," Beaulieu said. "Just getting my feet wet, keeping it simple early, and the rest takes care of itself."
Video: PREGAME | Nathan Beaulieu
It's the fourth match-up of the season between the two teams. St. Louis won the first two (with one game needing overtime), but Winnipeg earned a 5-2 win in the most recent meeting less than a week ago at Bell MTS Place.
"In the back of our minds, they took us out of the playoffs last year and won the Cup. There is a bit of a rivalry there I'd say," said Beaulieu. "They're extremely talented up front. Their top six can really do some damage. It's being sound defensively and keeping it extremely simple."
In order to make room for Beaulieu in the line-up, head coach Paul Maurice announced after the team's morning skate that Anthony Bitetto will come out of the line-up.
Given the way the defence has played since returning from the All-Star break - allowing only two goals at even strength in three games - it wasn't an easy decision.
"I want Beau to go in on his natural side. I don't want him playing his off side in his first game back in a while," Maurice said.
"It's a tough conversation on play. Since the adjustment with the pairings, he and Luca have played very well, hard too. It was difficult based on play alone."
Connor Hellebuyck will get the start in goal for the Jets, as he has in all meetings with St. Louis this season.
With the adjustment on the blue line, the Jets line-up is expected to look like this:
Jordan Binnington gets the call in goal for the Blues (32-14-8), who are coming off a 6-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at Enterprise Center on Tuesday.
Both teams were playing the back half of back-to-back games when they met last Saturday in Winnipeg. That's not the case tonight, where both teams come in rested.
"We certainly can't feed their transition. Not that it's a high-flying or high-risk team we're playing against," said Maurice.
"When they get it in your end, it's tough to get it out. If you create situations where they get easy outs of their end, you're going to spend too much time chasing. They're one of the best slot shooting teams in the league. They can churn down low and find that player in the slot and they have a lot of guys that can score from that position."
Dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season, Winnipeg is 6-2-0 against the Blues in St. Louis.
One of those two losses came back on December 29 of this season, but Maurice feels the Jets can have confidence in this building where the Blues are 18-4-4.
"They have a deep team, fairly healthy, then they get a hard match on you, they're tough here. There are buildings you go into that you go in fairly optimistic because you've had some success," said Maurice. "It'll be tight. It'll probably be a goaltending battle by the end of it."
Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets visit the St. Louis Blues tonight in their only road game of a 10-game stretch...The Jets finished a three-game homestand on Tuesday with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators to go 1-1-1...The Jets start a six-game homestand Saturday when the Ottawa Senators visit Bell MTS Place
Feb. 4 vs. NSH - 2-1 OTL
Jets Scorer: Appleton (3)
Predators Scorers: Bonino (10), Granlund (11)
Jets Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck (34 sv, 2 ga)
Predators Goaltender: Juuse Saros (33 sv, 1 ga)
Jets PP: 0-for-3
Jets PK: 2-for-2
Recap: Mason Appleton opened the scoring in the first period, but the Jets couldn't hold the lead and lost 2-1 in overtime to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night...Patrik Laine led the Jets with six shots, while Dmitry Kulikov had a team leading three blocked shots...Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves, including 12 in the third period.
Three Stars: 1. Hellebuyck 2. Saros 3. Appleton
READ THE GAME NOTES
The Jets play their only road game of a stretch between Jan. 23-Feb. 19 tomorrow in St. Louis...The Jets have played an even 27 games at home and on the road this season, but play six of their next seven games at home...Winnipeg has lost their past four games after earning points in four consecutive road games from Dec. 31-Jan. 8 (3-0-1)...The Jets are in a stretch of 14 of 16 games in the central time zone, but play 11 of their remaining 14 road games outside their time zone...Mark Scheifele is tied for eighth in the NHL in road scoring with 31 points (12G, 19A) in 27 games.
Tuesday's overtime loss marked Winnipeg's fourth consecutive loss in a game decided during the overtime period...The Jets started the season with four consecutive wins in games decided in overtime...The Jets have held the lead in the past two overtime losses.
The Jets have held their opponent to two goals in each of their past three games, but two of the games have been 2-1 losses...The Jets have gone 18-3-2 this season when allowing two goals or less and the 23 occurrences ranks tied for eighth in the NHL...Winnipeg has scored one goal or less in five of their past nine games.
The Jets have scored in the first period in a season-high five consecutive games...The most goals the Jets have scored in the first period of a game this season is two, which has happened nine times...The first period has been Winnipeg's least productive this season with 39 goals, compared to 62 goals in second periods and 51 goals in third periods...Nikolaj Ehlers leads the Jets with six first period goals this season...Three of Winnipeg's four shorthanded goals this season have been scored in the first period.
All Goals, No Apples
Mason Appleton has scored twice in the past four games to match the career high three goals he scored as a rookie last season in seven less games...He's scored all three of his goals in first periods this season and all three have put the Jets ahead...Appleton played a career high 15:12 on Tuesday, which marked the first time in his career he surpassed the 15 minute mark...He is averaging 10:37 of ice time per game this season, compared to 8:12 last season.
Sami Niku has three assists in his past two games and four assists in 12 games this season to match the four points (1G, 3A) he had in 30 games last season...He has registered assists and points in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
Paul Maurice is set to coach his 500th game as the Jets head coach tomorrow against the Blues...Maurice is the winningest coach in franchise history with a record of 261-185-53 and a .576 points percentage...In his 22nd season as an NHL head coach, the Jets are the second franchise in which Maurice has coached for 500 games, as he was behind the bench for 920 games with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes.
How the Jets Were Built
Drafted (14) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Harkins, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Morrissey, Niku, Poolman, Scheifele, Roslovic
Trade (3) - Beaulieu, Pionk, Wheeler
Free Agency (8) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Chibisov, Kulikov, Letestu, Perreault, Shaw
Waivers (3) - Dahlstrom, Sbisa, Shore