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GAMEDAY: Jets vs Sabres

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

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - Patrik Laine looked like his old self during Tuesday's morning skate, and that's a welcome sign for the Winnipeg Jets, who will have the Finnish forward back in the line-up as they start a three-game home stand against the Buffalo Sabres.

Laine missed Saturday's game against Edmonton after blocking a shot in his first shift two nights earlier against the Washington Capitals. 

"He had a good morning skate. The expectation is that he plays," said head coach Paul Maurice. "We'll get him through the warm-up but we expect he plays tonight."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

With Laine drawing back in alongside Nikolaj Ehlers and Cody Eakin, Mason Appleton will join Nick Shore and Gabriel Bourque, meaning Logan Shaw is on the outside looking in.

The full Jets line-up is expected to look like this, with Connor Hellebuyck getting the start in goal:

Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler

Ehlers-Eakin-Laine

Harkins-Copp-Roslovic

Bourque-Shore-Appleton

Morrissey-DeMelo

Kulikov-Pionk

Beaulieu-Poolman

Since being reunited on a full-time basis in the second period against the Washington Capitals one week ago, the trio of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler have combined for five goals, nine points, and 25 shots on goal.

"When you're playing with two guys like KC and Wheels, it makes it easy because you know where they're going to be. You know your options," said Scheifele. "You know that if you get stuck in a tough spot, you know your options, and that keeps plays alive.

"They're fun guys to play with."

Video: PREGAME | Mark Scheifele

Along with the points, Maurice has also seen that trio control possession on the ice, generating over 57 per cent of the shot attempts at even strength in the last three games.

"What Kyle has learned, Blake has developed into the player and Kyle has learned very quickly, is that asset number one is speed and simplicity. They accept that," said Maurice.

"For me, the tell on those guys is if they're putting the puck to the net when they should. There is always something else to create with that kind of speed. If you hang on to that idea too long, the other team gets paid too, those plays disappear. 

"When any of the stuff that's even strength, in terms of there is no advantage, that they put at the net, that's usually a sign they're going to have a big night."

Tonight's tilt against the Sabres will conclude the season series between the two teams, with Buffalo earning a 2-1 victory over the Jets on February 23.

Video: PREGAME | Cody Eakin

Scheifele had an assist in that match-up - part of a six-game point streak that was snapped on Saturday against the Oilers - and expects more of the same from the Sabres tonight.

"They play a solid system. They play it well. They have some skill up front with Jack (Eichel). He's a guy we definitely have to watch out there. He's one of the best players in the league right now," said Scheifele.

"We have to play a solid game and stick with it until the end."

The win over the Jets that afternoon in Buffalo was the fifth in six outings for the Sabres, but they have cooled since then.

They've lost three straight games as part of a four-game road trip that concludes tonight in Winnipeg.

"They have a real solid defensive structure now that maybe they were a little loose in the past. They closed that game on us pretty well. The back half of that third period, we weren't able to get through the neutral zone like we wanted to," said Maurice.

"There is a simplicity to their game. They're in the fight. They're in those last stages where they have to win games. We're going to be in a good one tonight."

Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

Game Notes

The Winnipeg Jets begin a three-game homestand tonight when they welcome the Buffalo Sabres to Bell MTS Place…The Jets are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night…The homestand continues Friday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Last Game

Feb. 29 at EDM - 3-2 L
Jets Scorers: Shaw (3), Connor (33)
Oilers Scorers: Draisaitl (38, 39), Nugent-Hopkins (19)

Jets Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck (19 sv, 3 ga)
Oilers Goaltender: Mike Smith (39 sv, 2 ga)

Jets PP: 0-for-2
Jets PK: 0-for-2

Recap: Kyle Connor gave the Jets a 2-1 lead in the second period, but the Jets lost 3-2 to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night…Connor and Neal Pionk paced the Jets with seven shots each…Pionk also led the Jets with five hits.

Three Stars: 1. Draisaitl 2. Nugent-Hopkins 3. Smith

READ THE GAME NOTES

Settle In

The Jets are in the midst of four of five games at home…Winnipeg plays seven of their last 15 games at home…The Jets have won three consecutive home games to improve to 17-14-3 on the season…Winnipeg is also 6-2-1 in their past nine home games…Kyle Connor leads the Jets at home with 33 points (17G, 16A) in 34 games.

Days Off

The Jets have two days off between all three games of this homestand…Winnipeg is 9-6-3 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 67 games.

Over 40

The Jets had 41 shots on Saturday, which was the first time in nine games they reached 40 shots…Winnipeg has 40 shots or more in a game eight times this season, which is tied for 12th in the NHL…The Jets are 1-7-0 this season when reaching 40 or more shots.

Hitting a Century

Kyle Connor reached 100 career goals with his second period tally on Saturday against Edmonton…He's the 12th player in franchise history to reach 100 goals…Connor has scored in three consecutive games for the first time this season…He's one goal shy of matching the career high 34 goals he had last season…Saturday's goal gave him 67 points this season, which is a career high.

Consecutive Assists

Defenceman Anthony Bitetto has assists in consecutive games for the first time this season…It's the fifth time in his career he has an assist in back-to-back games…Saturday's assist is his eighth of the season, which is a career high for assists and points in a season…Bitetto is averaging a career high 15:10 time on ice per game this season.

Shooters

Kyle Connor and Neal Pionk each had seven shots on Saturday, which marked the third time this season two members of the Jets had seven shots or more in the same game…Connor and Patrik Laine leads the Jets this season with six games of seven shots or more, which is tied for sixth in the NHL.

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

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