WINNIPEG - This week could be an opportunity for the Winnipeg Jets.
They play a home-and-home with the Dallas Stars this week - with the first of the two games tonight at Bell MTS Place - and both teams come in tied at 33 points in the Central Division standings.
Yes, there are still over 50 games to go in the regular season, but two points in December are just as valuable as they are in March.
"Every single game, especially Central Division, they're such big points now," said Kyle Connor.
"They're huge points for us and it's big to get a team back-to-back. You don't see that very often."
Video: PREGAME | Kyle Connor
The Jets (16-10-1) and Stars (15-10-3) have split their two match-ups this season, with each picking up a win on home ice.
True to Central Division form, both games have been tied in the third period and there hasn't been an inch of easy ice gained for either squad.
"They're hard fought games. There is a lot of bad blood floating around," said Luca Sbisa.
"For me personally, I'm a guy that hasn't had a chance to play in this division too often. It's a learning process, but from what I've seen so far, every team plays fast and the compete level is really high."
Winnipeg will go with the same line-up as the one that dropped a 2-1 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. The only exception will be in goal, where Connor Hellebuyck will get his 21st start of the season.
The line combinations are expected to look like this:
Like the Jets, the Stars also picked up 10 wins in the month of November. However, since winning seven in a row from November 13-25, Dallas is winless in three.
Video: PREGAME | Luca Sbisa
The big difference in the Dallas line-up from the two meetings with the Jets last month is the return of John Klingberg and Roope Hintz.
Klingberg has a goal and five points in the five games since his return, while Hintz still leads the Stars in goals with 11. Two of those markers have come in the five games he's played since coming back to the line-up.
"They now become a more difficult team in your own end of the ice when he's in on that forecheck," Maurice said of Hintz. "They close out an awful lot more in his end of the ice because he's got such a range and a big stick. That centre ice, probably the most important position you would build your team around, their strength up the middle has increased dramatically."
Despite the high amount of skill on both sides, goals may be tough to come by in tonight's game.
In the month of November, the Stars allowed the fewest goals in the NHL with 28. Right behind them were the Jets with 31.
A big part of that has been goaltending, as Hellebuyck's 0.944 save percentage at 1.85 goals against average since November 1 lead the NHL. Ben Bishop of the Stars is right behind him in both categories.
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
So sure, this week may be an opportunity to get some points in the standings, but they won't come easy.
"That's why you play the game. It's more fun to win a game 3-2 than 5-1. That's how I feel," said Sbisa.
"Nothing comes easy. This league is too tough. It doesn't matter if you're playing the last place team or the first place team. It's going to be a grind every night and that's how you have to approach things."
Puck drop is 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets host the Dallas Stars at Bell MTS Place tonight in the first game of a home-and-home set…The Jets are coming off a 2-1 road trip in the Pacific Division last week…The return game of the home-and-home goes Thursday in Dallas.
Nov. 30 at LAK - 2-1 L
Jets Scorer: Roslovic (6)
Kings Scorers: Ryan (1), Prokhorkin (3)
Jets Goaltender: Laurent Brossoit (32 sv, 2 ga)
Kings Goaltender: Jack Campbell (33 sv, 1 ga)
Jets PP: 0-for-3
Jets PK: 0-for-0
Recap: The Jets outshot the Kings 28-15 in the second and third periods, but lost 2-1 to Los Angeles on Saturday night…Jack Roslovic scored Winnipeg's lone goal of the game in the third period…Adam Lowry led the Jets with seven hits…Goaltender Laurent Brossoit made 32 saves, including 17 in the first period.
Three Stars: 1. Ryan 2. Campbell 3. Roslovic
READ THE GAME NOTES
November to Remember
Winnipeg went 10-3-1 in November, which set a franchise record for most wins in November…It's the fifth time in franchise history the Jets have won 10 or more games in a calendar month…Winnipeg allowed 31 goals in November, which was tied for the second fewest in the NHL…The Jets went 83.3% on the penalty kill in November, compared to going 65.4% in October…Kyle Connor led the Jets in scoring in November with 15 points (6G, 9A) in 14 games.
After playing nine of 14 games on the road in November, the Jets play eight of 13 games at home in December…Winnipeg has three home-and-home sets this month - Dec. 3 and 5 against Dallas; Dec. 10 and 12 against Detroit, and Dec. 27 and 29 against St. Louis…The Jets went 11-4-0 in December last season, which set a franchise record for most wins in December…Blake Wheeler leads Jets players in career scoring in December with 122 points (37G, 85A) in 137 games.
The Jets are 3-1-0 in their past four games and have surrendered just six goals in the quartet of contests…Winnipeg has allowed three goals or less in seven of their past eight games…The Jets are averaging 2.78 goals against this season, which is seventh fewest in the NHL.
Limiting the Losses
The Jets only have one losing streak this season - a three-game losing streak from Oct. 13-17…Since that streak, the Jets are 12-5-1, which is the eighth in the NHL, but fourth in the Central Division behind the St. Louis Blues (14-3-3), Dallas Stars (13-3-2), and Minnesota Wild (11-5-4).
The Jets are 4-2-0 against divisional opponents this season…The Jets are 11-6-0 against the Western Conference this season, which is tied for the NHL lead in wins against the Western Conference…The Jets are in the midst of eight of nine games against the Western Conference…Kyle Connor leads the Jets in scoring against the Western Conference with 17 points (8G, 9A) in 17 games.
Home For One
The Jets are 6-5-1 at home this season, including 4-1-1 in their last six home games…Tomorrow is the second consecutive single-game homestand for the Jets…Winnipeg has five occurrences of a single-game homestand this season after only having two last season…Mark Scheifele (4G, 4A) and Patrik Laine (3G, 5A) lead the Jets with eight points in 12 home games…Adam Lowry has won a team-leading 61.4% of his face-offs at home.
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was the best goaltender in the NHL in November by going 8-2-1 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .944 save percentage - both of which led the league…It was by far the best November of his career, as Hellebuyck had a career 2.69 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in November prior to this season.
Jack Roslovic scored Winnipeg's lone goal on Saturday…He has five points (3G, 2A) in his past seven games and is a plus-six…Roslovic has 12 points (6G, 6A) in 27 games this season, which is halfway to the career high 24 points (9G, 15A) he posted last season in 77 games…He's averaging a career high 14:43 TOI per game and played a season high 17:44 on Saturday against Los Angeles.
How the Jets Were Built
Drafted (14) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Gustafsson, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Morrissey, Poolman, Scheifele, Spacek, Roslovic
Trade (3) - Beaulieu, Pionk, Wheeler
Free Agency (9) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Kulikov, Letestu, Luoto, Perreault, Schilling, Shaw
Waivers (2) - Dahlstrom, Sbisa