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Jets conclude home stand tonight vs. Caps

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets


AT THE MORNING SKATE


WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets wrap up a three-game home stand tonight when Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals pay a visit to MTS Centre.

The Jets are coming in on a three-game winning streak and are currently in possession of the second of two wild-card spots, two points up on the Los Angeles Kings and just one back of the Minnesota Wild. The Capitals hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference Wild Card with a 39-23-10 record for 88 points, five up on the red-hot Boston Bruins.

“This is an elite team,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “Defensively they’re strong, they’ve got big men on their back end and a lot of size on the wings. The systems that they play now are very hard and it’s very similar to what we do. … We wouldn’t look at playing them differently than St. Louis. In general terms they’re exactly like them. They’re a very structured defensive team now and like St. Louis, they’ve got a bunch of guys that can make plays and finish in those tight areas.

“This is not going to be a wide-open, flowing game if it’s played right by us.”

“They’re a good team and we found that out the last time we played them,” Jacob Trouba added. “They’ve got some highly skilled players who will make you pay if you give them a chance.”

Look no further than a month ago.

This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Capitals won the initial encounter rather convincingly, 5-1 on Feb. 19 at Verizon Center. Washington scored a season-high three power-play goals that night and Nicklas Backstrom, who leads the NHL in assists with 54, factored in on each of them (2G, 1A).

The Caps and Detroit Red Wings are tied for the league's top power-play percentage with a 25.2% conversion rate.

Ovechkin leads the NHL with 47 goals this season, with 21 of those coming with the man-advantage.

“You try to be as aggressive as you possibly can to keep teams out of their structure. … But they’re so good at getting into their structure because of their hands,” Maurice said of the vaunted Caps. “There’s no secret in their power-play – you know where they’re going to be standing and what they’re going to do, but their skill level takes over.

“In games that I’ve seen where teams try to take away one shooter, they’ve not been successful.”

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Michael Frolik, who’s one of the team’s top penalty killers, said following the morning skate. “We know they’ve got a great power-play, so we want to make sure we’re not taking any penalties and are playing 5-on-5 against them. … We feel more comfortable when we play our game. We want to be hard on the puck, strong in the battles and that’s the key against skilled teams – playing the body, not the puck, and not giving them any easy ice. That’s the challenge tonight.”

Frolik, who will skate on the top line alongside Adam Lowry and Andrew Ladd, has nine points in his last 11 games.

There are no changes to the lineup heading into tonight’s game. Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little remain out with upper-body injuries.

Andrew Ladd - Adam Lowry - Michael Frolik
Drew Stafford - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Jiri Tlusty - Jim Slater - Lee Stempniak
Chris Thorburn - Eric O’Dell - Matt Halischuk

Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Jay Harrison - Adam Pardy

Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal tonight seeking a fourth straight win after recording 32 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues Thursday night. The 27-year-old is currently on pace for a career season with a goals-against average of 2.46 and a save percentage of .914. Pavelec is 16-14-7 on the year and has a save percentage of .955 in his last five appearances.

The Capitals didn't skate this morning, but it is expected that Braden Holtby will get the nod in goal for the visitors.

— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com
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