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GAMEDAY: Jets vs Blackhawks

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

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Mason Appleton is back in the Winnipeg Jets line-up tonight as the team closes a three-game home stand against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Appleton broke a bone in his foot the day before the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic and missed 19 games.

Now he's ready to put that freak injury behind him.

"I'm excited to get back to work," he said after this morning's skate. "I'm feeling good and I'm excited."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

The 23-year-old played four games with the Manitoba Moose over the last week recording one assist.

But regardless of what the former Michigan State Spartan put on the score sheet, he was just happy to be playing again and getting his game back to the level he expects out of himself.

"Just getting back to my pace of play is probably the biggest thing," he said. "Playing a fast, simple, and effective game. The last few games down with the Moose I was able to do that. I like where my game is at."

Appleton's recall came on Wednesday along with Jansen Harkins due to injuries to Andrew Copp (upper body, out at least four weeks) and Mathieu Perreault (concussion). While the NHL debut for Harkins will have to wait, Appleton will slot in alongside Adam Lowry and Gabriel Bourque.

"Any chance you get to be in the line-up is a good thing, but to play with Lows and Bourque - I think we're going to be able to be effective down below their dots and hard and heavy on pucks," Appleton said. "Lows does a good job with it. His communication and his positioning makes it easier for the wingers. You read off a guy like that and make the simple plays.

"You obviously don't try to force anything coming through the neutral zone or the defensive zone. Make your plays when you can in the O-zone. It's a three-zone game with Adam. He's effective in all zones so I think we'll be able to read off each other and make some plays."

Video: PREGAME | Mason Appleton

The rest of the Jets line-up is expected to look like this:

Connor-Scheifele-Laine

Ehlers-Wheeler-Roslovic

Bourque-Lowry-Appleton

Luoto-Shore-Shaw

Morrissey-Poolman

Sbisa-Pionk

Bitetto-Beaulieu

Maurice doesn't expect Lowry's line to have the same look identity wise with Copp out.

"It's almost the Copp - Lowry tandem that defines the line," Maurice said. "When you go back over the last two or three years, we've used a bunch of different kinds of players in there and they've always been effective because those two guys are always so consistent with their style.

"How you run the bench changes a little bit, but that's true of all injuries. It forces you to make some adjustments."

Winnipeg (20-12-2) is looking to rebound from a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. Chicago (13-16-6) is also coming off a loss, a 4-1 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche at United Center on Wednesday.

So far this season, the Jets are 11-2-0 in the game following a loss of any kind.

"It's not like we're walking around sad and upset about it still. We have to move forward," said Nikolaj Ehlers. "We have to bounce back and we have to do that tonight. That loss, any loss, they don't make us feel bad or we don't lose confidence off them. We know what kind of team we are. Sometimes we have off nights. The most important thing is we battle for a full 60 every single game."

Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

Connor Hellebuyck has been a big part of those bounce back performances. He's 9-1-0 coming off a loss with a 0.952 save percentage in those 10 games.

Tonight's tilt also begins a run of divisional games for the Jets, who will play an opponent from the Central Division in five of their next six outings.

"You play them four or five times a year," said Ehlers. "For guys that have been in this league for a while in the same division, they know what type of games these are."

Even in watching Chicago's loss to Colorado, Maurice said the skill the Blackhawks bring to the ice was evident.

"If you're off gap on this team, there is enough firepower there to cause you an awful lot of problems," said Maurice. "We felt we were off gap in two of our last three. There was too much ice to play on. We were too easy to take the puck off of. We'd like to turn this game into an end zone game. They're going to be very dangerous in the transition between the two. We want to be on the right side of it."

Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

Game Notes

The Winnipeg Jets finish a three-game homestand tonight when they welcome the Chicago Blackhawks to Bell MTS Place…The Jets are 1-1-0 during the homestand after a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night…The Jets visit the Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon before playing their last game before Christmas on Monday at home against the Montreal Canadiens.

Last Game

Dec. 17 vs. CAR - 6-3 L
Jets Scorers: Roslovic (7), Laine (11), Scheifele (16)
Hurricanes Scorers: Wallmark (5), Aho (19, 20), Svechnikov (14), Staal (4, 5)

Jets Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck (18 sv, 5 ga); Laurent Brossoit (4 sv, 1 ga)
Hurricanes Goaltender: Petr Mrazek (30 sv, 3 ga)

Jets PP: 1-for-2
Jets PK: 0-for-2

Recap: The Jets scored in each period, but lost 6-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday night…Blake Wheeler had two assists for the Jets, while Mark Scheifele led the Jets with six shots…The Jets gave up four goals in the second period, which marks the second time this season they have allowed four goals in a period.

Three Stars: 1. Aho 2. Staal 3. Niederreiter

READ THE GAME NOTES

Three in Five

With a win tomorrow, the Jets can earn three wins in their fifth consecutive five-game segment and six of their seven five-game segments this season…The Jets have scored an average of 4.25 goals per game in their current five-game segment, which is a season high.

Finding the Power

The Jets scored a season high three power play goals on Sunday against the Flyers and have a power play goal in four of their past five games (6-for-17, 35.3%)…After scoring a career high 12 power play goals last season, Mark Scheifele leads the Jets with six power play goals this season, including scoring four of Winnipeg's past six power play markers.

 Home Ice

The Jets are in the midst of playing five of six games at Bell MTS Place…Winnipeg is 10-6-1 on home ice this season, including 8-2-1 in their past 11 home contests…The Jets had their five-game home winning streak come to an end on Tuesday.

 Western Rivals

The Jets are 5-2-1 against divisional opponents this season…The Jets are 13-6-1 against the Western Conference this season…The Jets play five of their next six games against Western Conference teams…Kyle Connor leads the Jets in scoring against the Western Conference with 22 points (9G, 13A) in 20 games, while Mark Scheifele has a team-leading 10 goals.

 Scheifele Streak

Mark Scheifele (7G, 5A) is riding a seven-game point streak, which is the longest streak by a Jets player this season…It's the second longest active point streak in the NHL…The longest point streak of Scheifele's career is 10 games from Mar. 22-Apr. 9/16 (6G, 9A).

 Helping Out

Defenceman Neal Pionk has seven assists in seven games in December, including four assists in his past two games…With 17 assists this season, Pionk is three assists away from matching the career high 20 assists he had last season…He's averaging 0.50 assists per game this season, compared to 0.33 assists per game in his first two seasons in the NHL…He has 11 power play points (1G, 10A) in 34 games this season, compared to 13 power play points (2G, 11A) in 73 games last season.

 Points Record in Reach

Captain Blake Wheeler is two points away from becoming the franchise's all-time leader in points…With 614 points (201G, 413A) in 673 games, he's one point behind Ilya Kovalchuk, who had 615 points (328G, 287A) in 594 games with the franchise when it was in Atlanta…Wheeler is already the franchise leader in assists with 413…He is coming off a pair of career high 91-point seasons and has closed in quickly on the record with 10 points (3G, 7A) in seven games in December.

How the Jets Were Built

Drafted (13) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Harkins, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Morrissey, Poolman, Scheifele, Roslovic
Trade (3) - Beaulieu, Pionk, Wheeler
Free Agency (8) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Kulikov, Letestu, Luoto, Perreault, Shaw
Waivers (3) - Dahlstrom, Sbisa, Shore

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