WINNIPEG - For the first time since January 31, the Winnipeg Jets will have Mathieu Perreault in the line-up.
"I'm pretty excited," said Perreault. "We need the two points. It's a big match-up for us. I'm just happy to be back and have a chance to help the guys get some points in the standings."
The 32-year-old has missed 16 games with an upper-body injury, but will play on the left wing with Nick Shore and Mason Appleton tonight when the Jets (34-28-6) host the surging Vegas Golden Knights (37-23-8).
"I'll try and keep it simple, but at the same time, do what I do. Get in on the forecheck, get on the puck, and try to create for our team," said Perreault.
"I just want to play the game I always play. I missed some time, but it doesn't change the style of game I'm going to play."
Video: PREGAME | Mathieu Perreault
In order to make room for Perreault in the line-up, Gabriel Bourque will come out.
But Jets head coach Paul Maurice feels Perreault brings similar characteristics to the game as Bourque does.
"Lots of energy on the bench, lots of joy for the game. A different kind of physicality on offence but the same kind of effectiveness," said Maurice. He can get on the puck and create some things. We're really pleased with where Mason Appleton is in terms of his pace and his drive, and we think Nick Shore can move some pucks and make some plays.
The Jets didn't do full line rushes in Friday's optional skate, but based on yesterday's practice and where Perreault is expected to slot in, the line-up is expected to look like this:
Tonight is also the first time that Cody Eakin will face his former club since being acquired by Winnipeg from Vegas on February 21.
"I went to dinner with a few guys last night and had a couple laughs," said Eakin, who says he remembers the system the Golden Knights play quite well.
"So if I can help out in any way, I'll be vocal tonight," he said.
Eakin has played five games with the Jets, recording one assist while averaging 14:21 of ice time.
"One of the things you've learned from him is he's a real good pro. He knows what his game is. He's not trying to find a game or change how he plays," said Maurice. "The challenge is he came in in flux. Two of the guys he might have started with were out of our line-up and we've moved him around.
"He doesn't mind playing with Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine because there is some action there too. He's going to have an opportunity to do more than just check, so to speak. He's excited about it."
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
In the only other meeting of the season between the two clubs, the Jets earned a 4-3 overtime victory at T-Mobile Arena, erasing a 3-1 deficit after 20 minutes.
Vegas currently holds down top spot in the Pacific Division and has won nine of their last 10 games. In their last outing, the Golden Knights shut out the New Jersey Devils 3-0, while the Jets also posted a win their last time out - a 3-1 triumph over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
"They're on a pretty good roll right now. They have a lethal line-up up front. They have a bunch of lines that can put the puck in the back of the net," said Josh Morrissey. "We're going to have to come in and bring our best game and play with confidence as well. It should be a good game. It's always fun whenever we play Vegas, especially with the playoffs a few years ago and what not. We need to bring our best."
As if being one point out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference isn't enough motivation for the Jets tonight, Eakin says going up against his former team adds a little more meaning to the match-up.
"Nothing would be better than getting a win tonight," said Eakin. "I'll do everything I can to help out and try to get that."
Video: PREGAME | Cody Eakin
Connor Hellebuyck starts for the Jets, while Marc-Andre Fleury gets the call for Vegas.
Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets play the middle game of a three-game homestand tonight when the Vegas Golden Knights come to Bell MTS Place for the first of two visits this month…Winnipeg beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Tuesday in the first game of the homestand…The Jets conclude the homestand on Monday against the Arizona Coyotes.
Mar. 3 vs. BUF - 3-1 W
Jets Scorers: Connor (34, 35), Poolman (3)
Sabres Scorer: Ristolainen (6)
Jets Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck (25 sv, 1 ga)
Sabres Goaltender: Carter Hutton (32 sv, 2 ga)
Jets PP: 1-for-3
Jets PK: 2-for-2
Recap: The Jets scored at even strength, shorthanded, and on the power play in a 3-1 win against Buffalo on Tuesday night…It's the fourth time this season the Jets have scored in all three situations…Kyle Connor scored twice for the Jets and added an assist, while Blake Wheeler had two assists.
Three Stars: 1. Connor 2. Wheeler 3. Ristolainen
READ THE GAME NOTES
The Jets are in the midst of four of five games at home…Winnipeg plays six of their last 14 games at home…The Jets have won four consecutive home games to improve to 18-14-3 on the season…It's their second home winning streak of four games or more this season…Winnipeg is also 7-2-1 in their past 10 home games…Kyle Connor leads the Jets at home with 36 points (19G, 17A) in 35 games…He's reached 20 goals at home in each of the past two seasons.
The Jets have two days off between all three games of this homestand…Winnipeg is 10-6-3 this season when having two days or more of rest…After playing five games in the final eight days of February, the Jets play twice in the first eight days of March…The Jets are one of seven teams in the NHL to play a league-leading 68 games.
The Jets are 4-3-1 in Friday games this season, but 1-3-1 at home on Friday's…Including tomorrow's game, the Jets play on three of the next four Friday's at home…Kyle Connor leads the Jets in scoring on Friday's with eight points (5G, 3A) in eight games.
Tucker Poolman scored his first career shorthanded goal on Tuesday…It was Winnipeg's sixth shorthanded goal of the season, which ranks tied for eighth in the NHL…Andrew Copp has assisted three of Winnipeg's six shorthanded goals this season, which is tied for the NHL lead for shorthanded assists.
Four in a Row for KC
Kyle Connor has scored in four consecutive games, which is a career high for his longest goal scoring streak…He previously had four three-game goal scoring streaks…Connor's two goals on Tuesday gave him 35 goals on the season for the first time in his career…He is one of three players in the NHL to score at least 30 goals in each of the past three seasons and his 100 goals during the past three seasons is tied for 10th in the NHL.
Blake Wheeler tallied his eighth two-assist game of the season on Tuesday…He has seven assists in his past eight games to reach 40 assists for the fifth consecutive season and seventh time in his career…He is six assists shy of reaching 500 for his career.
How the Jets Were Built
Drafted (14) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Harkins, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Morrissey, Niku, Poolman, Scheifele, Roslovic
Trade (5) - Beaulieu, Eakin, DeMelo, Pionk, Wheeler
Free Agency (7) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Kulikov, Letestu, Perreault, Shaw
Waivers (3) - Dahlstrom, Sbisa, Shore