WINNIPEG - When the Winnipeg Jets woke up on Sunday morning, they found themselves in a wildcard spot, thanks to a 3-0-1 start to the month of February.
But they're not satisfied yet. They know there is a lot of work to be done, especially with 26 games left on the schedule.
They're all important games from here on out, and tonight at Bell MTS Place, they face a team trying to chase them down in the Chicago Blackhawks (25-21-8), who are three points back of the Jets.
"We're in a position. We're sitting there, but you can't get too comfortable. There are teams knocking on the door every single night," said Nathan Beaulieu. "Every day you look at the standings and someone is jumping each other. We have a good opportunity to finish off another home stand that could be really important in the long run."
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
Tonight will conclude the eighth set of back-to-back games on the Jets' schedule. Currently, the Jets are 3-4-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets and look to improve on that record tonight.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are beginning a five-game road trip tonight that will take them to Edmonton, Vancouver, and Calgary before concluding in Winnipeg one week from today.
"They're four-point games when you look at them. They have two games in hand on us, so there is even more pressure on us," said Beaulieu. "Yesterday was a huge boost to get those two points. They've been sitting so I know they're going to be eager to play. We played last night, so the start is going to be really important."
Winnipeg (28-23-5) will ice the same line-up tonight as the one that produced the 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon:
The only change will be in goal, where Connor Hellebuyck will look to continue his success since the NHL All-Star break. The 26-year-old has a 0.947 save percentage in his three starts since representing the Central Division over the All-Star weekend, and has a 1.99 goals against average in that span.
Video: PREGAME | Nathan Beaulieu
This is the fourth meeting of the season between the Jets and the Blackhawks, with Chicago winning the last two of those games.
Patrick Kane has had a lot to do with that, recording a goal and four assists in those two games.
"He's just hard to find. He's elusive, he'll take the puck back. You make adjustments in your neutral zone for him alone, for his style of play," said head coach Paul Maurice. "When you think you're going to match, he might just stay for two (shifts). He's playing the wing, he might just wait for a pair of D that he likes to come out before he comes off the ice."
One player who could see a lot of Kane tonight is Mark Scheifele, who is used to going up against the other team's best.
"He's not fun to play against. He's a challenge. That's the fun part about it," said Scheifele with a grin.
"He's so talented. He's so in control. You're never going to get him flustered, you're never going to get him with a bobbled puck. The biggest thing is to take away his time and space and don't let him pull up on you, or give him a little bit of extra time because he's going to make a play."
Video: PREGAME | Mark Scheifele
Scheifele - who has three game-winning goals against the Blackhawks in his career, including one this season - says the Jets are a confident group heading into tonight's divisional tilt.
"Any Central Division game is going to be big," said Scheifele. "We've had some big games lately. It's nothing new. We have a tough match-up against Chicago and we have to be ready."
Puck drop is set for 6 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets continue a six-game homestand tonight by facing the Chicago Blackhawks at Bell MTS Place...It's the first of two times the Jets host the Blackhawks in the span of eight days...Winnipeg started the homestand with a 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators yesterday...The Jets continue the homestand on Tuesday against the New York Rangers.
Feb. 8 vs. OTT - 5-2 W
Jets Scorers: Pionk (6), Connor (26), Laine (21, 22, 23)
Senators Scorers: Pageau (21), Boedker (1)
Jets Goaltender: Laurent Brossoit (25 sv, 2 ga)
Senators Goaltender: Craig Anderson (18 sv, 4 ga); Marcus Hogberg (11 sv, 1 ga)
Jets PP: 3-for-4
Jets PK: 3-for-3
Recap: Patrik Laine had a hat trick and Kyle Connor tallied four points (1G, 3A) in a 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators yesterday...Neal Pionk also opened the scoring and added two assists for the Jets...Anthony Bitetto led the Jets with five hits.
Three Stars: 1. Laine 2. Connor 3. Pionk
READ THE GAME NOTES
Winnipeg is 13-12-3 at home this season and are in a stretch of nine of 10 games at Bell MTS Place...The Jets are in the midst of a six-game homestand, which is their longest homestand of the season at Bell MTS Place...The Jets are 2-0-1 in their past three home games...Kyle Connor leads the Jets in scoring at home with 26 points (13G, 13A) in 28 games...Patrik Laine leads the Jets with 14 goals at home.
Setting the Limit
The Jets have held their opponent to two goals in each of their past five games...The 10 goals Winnipeg has allowed since Jan. 31 ranks tied for ninth in the NHL in fewest goals allowed and the two goals against per game is fifth...The Jets have gone 20-3-2 this season when allowing two goals or less and the 25 occurrences ranks tied for seventh in the NHL.
The Jets have 10 back-to-back sets this season, the eighth of which is this weekend...The Jets are 5-3-0 in the first and 3-4-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season...Four of the eight wins have come in overtime or a shootout...The Jets have three back-to-back sets in a span of 24 days...Winnipeg went 6-3-0 in the first game and 5-4-0 in the second game of back-to-backs last season.
The Jets have scored in the first period in a season-high seven 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 41 goals, compared to 66 goals in second periods and 54 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.
Patrik Laine tallied his first hat trick of the season yesterday...It's the eighth hat trick of his career, which is second most in franchise history and three behind Ilya Kovalchuk (11) for the franchise record...Yesterday was the first time Laine scored three power play goals in game, which tied a franchise record that was previously done six times.
Four for KC
Kyle Connor registered four points (1G, 3A) yesterday, which was the fourth four-point game of a career...The Jets are 39-6-2 when Connor has a multi-point game during his career...Since Nov. 1, Connor is 12th in NHL scoring with 50 points (22G, 28A) in 43 games...He's on pace for a career high 38 goals and 43 assists...He needs two assists to match the career high 32 assists he had last season.
Since the Break
Since representing the Jets as part of the Central Division team in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, Connor Hellebuyck has gone 2-0-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .947 save percentage...He stopped 107 of the 113 shots directed his way and has posted a .944 save percentage or better in each start...It's the second time this season he's had a plus-.940 save percentage in three consecutive starts (Nov. 1-8).
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