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GAMEDAY: Jets vs Oilers

6:00 pm CT - TV: SN; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Bryan Little will make his season debut tonight as the Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth game of a five-game home stand.

Little has missed the first nine games of the regular season due to the concussion he sustained in the preseason finale on Sept. 29 against the Minnesota Wild.

"I don't think I'll be short of energy or adrenaline tonight. I'm pretty excited to be back," said Little. "It's a good challenge facing probably the hottest team in the league right now. It's going to be fun."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

The Jets (4-5-0) didn't hold a morning skate on Sunday, but during practice on Saturday, the 31-year-old centre was between Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers - two wingers he's played with often during the last couple seasons.

"It helps a bit. It's not like I'm jumping in playing with guys I've never played with before," said Little. "Talking to them will help a lot, talking on the ice. It's been a while since I've played a game. I'm trying to keep things as simple as I can and let the energy take over."

Little's return moves Andrew Copp from that centre spot between Connor and Ehlers. But that doesn't change what head coach Paul Maurice saw from Copp in that spot.

While the Jets didn't win against the Islanders on Thursday, Copp, Ehlers, and Connor were dominant at even strength. The shot attempt differential was 22-4 in favour of the Jets with that trio on the ice.

Maurice believes Copp had a big hand in that. 

"He's gotten faster. He's trained himself hard. He's a fit man. He's quite a bit faster than he was when he first came in. He's got some hands. He sees some plays he can make," said Maurice. 

"He still doesn't make any mistakes and he doesn't cheat the game. He's defensively on it all the time."

Video: PREGAME | Bryan Little

Playing in the other team's end has been the calling card of Copp and Adam Lowry, who will be reunited tonight with Jack Roslovic on the right wing.

"I think Jack is going to fit in well. He's got a lot of speed. The biggest thing for us is how good our forechecking is," said Copp. "When he's not thinking, that's when he's the best. He's just skating and he's on the puck. We feel we can read off him really well.

"Obviously I'm really comfortable with Adam and his consistent game. I know where to go to be an option for him. We're comfortable but we have to hopefully get going right away. We have to get off this three-game losing streak and we have to get to work."

Video: PREGAME | Andrew Copp

During the last two seasons, Copp and Lowry have been one of the lines Maurice has turned to in order to shut down the opposition's best.

Should they get that match-up tonight, they'll be going up against Connor McDavid - who currently leads the NHL in points with 17 in eight games. On his wing is Leon Draisaitl, who isn't far behind with 16 points of his own.

"If we get the McDavid match and if we can eliminate him offensively, that does a lot for the team," said Copp. "I feel like we can set the tone and play in their end, get the crowd into the game a little bit in terms of offensive zone time, offensive zone chances, drawing penalties and taking away their most dangerous player.

"We'll see how the match-up shakes out over the course of the game, but we feel like we can be a very important line for us."

The Oilers have come flying out of the gate early this season, going 7-1-0 to sit atop the Pacific Division.

One of the big reasons has been the Oilers power play, which is a league-best 41.7 per cent. Edmonton had scored on the man advantage in six consecutive games prior to being held off the scoresheet in a 2-1 win over Detroit two nights ago.

On the flipside, the Jets penalty kill has allowed a goal in four straight games and is an area the team wants to improve on. 

"They have a unique set up with five lefties," said Copp.

"We've hammered home some points about what we don't want to give up for sure, and if there is an opportunity for them where we want that to come from, so the goalie knows that and it's predictable."

Connor Hellebuyck (3-3-0, 0.919 save percentage) will get the start in goal for the Jets while Mike Smith (3-1-0), 0.917 save percentage) gets the call for the Oilers.

Puck drop is set for 6 pm CT. 

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

Game Notes

The Winnipeg Jets welcome the Edmonton Oilers to Bell MTS Place tomorrow in the fourth game of Winnipeg's five-game homestand...The Jets lost 3-1 to the New York Islanders on Thursday night to fall to 0-3-0 during the homestand...Winnipeg concludes the homestand Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Last Game

Oct. 17 vs. NYI - 3-1 L

Jets Scorers: Ehlers (3)

Islanders Scorers: Barzal (2, 3), Bailey (3)

Jets Goaltender: Hellebuyck (23 sv, 2 ga)

Islanders Goaltender: Varlamov (32 sv, 1 ga)

Jets PP: 1-for-2
Jets PK: 0-for-1

Recap: Nikolaj Ehlers scored Winnipeg's only goal at 13:12 of the first period on the power play, as the Jets lost 3-1 to the Islanders on Thursday night...Winnipeg outshot New York 33-26, including 16-5 in the first period...Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of 25 shots...The Jets won 60% of the face-offs, paced by Adam Lowry winning 18 of 24 draws (75%).

Three Stars: 1. Barzal 2. Varlamov 3. Ehlers

READ THE GAME NOTES

Party in the Pacific

Tomorrow is the second of eight games Winnipeg plays against Pacific Division opponents in 10 outings...Winnipeg's 4-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday was the first meeting...The Jets went 16-6-2 against Pacific Division opponents last season, which was the most wins against the division by a team outside the division...Winnipeg won 11 of their last 17 games against the Pacific Division...Winnipeg was 17-4-2 against Pacific Division foes in 2017-18 and is on a 25-8-4 run in their past 37 games versus the Pacific...Since 2017-18, Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in scoring against the Pacific Division with 42 points (8G, 34A) in 49 games, while Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine each have a team-leading 20 goals...In goal, Connor Hellebuyck is 27-6-4 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .916 save percentage during that time against the Pacific.

Home Stretch

The Jets are in the midst of five consecutive home games and are the home team for six consecutive games including the 2019 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic on Oct. 26 against the Calgary Flames...Winnipeg is also in the midst of nine of 13 games at Bell MTS Place...In the 2019 calendar year, the Jets are 13-9-2 on home ice, but have lost six of their past seven home games dating back to last season...The Jets current three-game home losing streak and their three-game home losing streak to end the 2018-18 regular season are the only times they've lost three consecutive games in regulation in their past 92 home games dating back to Mar. 19/17 (64-22-6).

Well Behaved

The Jets are leading the NHL in fewest penalty minutes per game with an average of just 3.8 penalty minutes...The Jets have reduced their penalty minutes during the past six seasons, with their previous low being 8.5 minutes per game in 2017-18...Winnipeg has been shorthanded 16 times compared to being on the power play 29 times...The Jets have played 24:43 more on the power play than the penalty kill this season, which leads the NHL by nearly 10 minutes.

Returning to Sunday Funday

While the Jets have dropped their first two Sunday games this season, Winnipeg went 19-3-0 on Sundays during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 regular seasons...The Jets outscored their opponents 90-40 in those 22 games, but have been outscored 11-3 in their two Sunday games this season...Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in scoring in Sunday games since the start of the 2017-18 season with 37 points (14G, 23A) in 24 games, which leads the NHL by eight points.

One From 700

Jets head coach Paul Maurice is one victory away from 700 wins...His 699 career wins is seventh all-time in the NHL...He's third in wins among active NHL coaches, behind Joel Quenneville (892) and Barry Trotz (814)...With the Jets, Maurice is 239-167-48 for a .579 points percentage, making it his most successful NHL coaching stint...Maurice has coached 1,538 NHL games, which is sixth-most in NHL history.

First Point at Home

Nikolaj Ehlers' power play goal on Thursday was his first point at home this season in four games after posting seven points (2G, 5A) in five road games...Ehlers has produced slightly better on the road during his career with .69 points per game compared to .65 points per game at home...Ehlers is two points away from 100 at Bell MTS Place for his career.

Draw Masters

The Jets have had four players take at least 45 face-offs this season and win more than half of them...Adam Lowry won 16 of 24 draws on Thursday to boost his season face-off winning percentage to 56.3%...Jack Roslovic is 34-for-58 (58.6%) in draws this season, while Andrew Copp has won 66 of 123 face-offs (53.7%)...Rookie David Gustafsson has won four of six face-offs in his first two NHL games.

How the Jets Were Built

Drafted (14) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Gustafsson, Heinola, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Morrissey, Poolman, Scheifele, Roslovic

Trade (3) - Beaulieu, Pionk, Wheeler

Free Agency (6) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Kulikov, Letestu, Perreault

Waivers (1) - Dahlstrom

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