PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- The Winnipeg Jets (31-38-6) look to close out a two-game road trip on a winning note tonight when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Mark Scheifele says the focus is on bouncing back from a tough third period in Buffalo on Saturday, when the Sabres scored twice to come back and steal a 3-2 win.
“We know we didn’t bring it in the third, especially when you give up a lead like that,” said Scheifele. “It’s going to be a tough test against Philly, and hopefully we can make it a good one.”
Scheifele had an assist in the loss, which gave the centre 50 points with seven games to go in the regular season. That point total is a new career high, besting his previous mark of 49 points in 2014-2015.
He wasn’t the only one to reach a personal milestone in the loss, as Blake Wheeler set a new career mark for assists, registering his 48th of the season on Nikolaj Ehlers’ first period goal.
Wheeler believes the fact the Flyers are battling for their playoff lives in the Eastern Conference will serve as motivation for the Jets tonight. At 85 points, the Flyers (36-25-13) are tied with Detroit for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
“They’ve played well this year. They’ve really come a ways and they’re battling for a playoff spot,” Wheeler said. “It’s a meaningful game tonight so it’s nice to come in here, and have a game that matters, and give them a test.”
The Flyers come into tonight’s game 6-2-2 in their last 10, but like the Jets, are trying to bounce back from a loss on Saturday. Sean Couturier scored the lone Philadelphia goal in a 2-1 setback to Arizona.
Claude Giroux left the game late after a hit from Arizona’s Martin Hanzal. Giroux did not participate in the Flyers’ pre-game skate this morning, but Flyers coach Dave Hakstol says the forward will play tonight.
While Giroux leads the Flyers in assists (41) and points (62), Jets head coach Paul Maurice says he’s not the only one his team will need to keep in check tonight.
“They’ve had some nice goaltending on some stretches here lately. (They) really added a nice piece to their blue line that has had a major impact in their game, (Shayne) Gostisbehere, a really dynamic exciting young player. Then they’re just going to work hard and they’re going to skate.
“They get up and down the ice pretty good, they’ll move it, they’ll compete pretty hard. The Flyers always have.”
“Obviously they’ve got a lot of skill. They have high-powered forwards like Giroux. You have to be aware of that. They play a solid game,” Scheifele said. “They’re going to come hard. They’re fighting for a playoff spot and hopefully we can derail that a little bit.”
Puck drop is 6 pm CT.
BUFF GETS THE NOD
Earlier today, Dustin Byfuglien was named as the Winnipeg Jets nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to an NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
The award is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
“This year he really solidified himself as an NHL defenceman. He’s on the plus side of plus/minus, and (he has) good numbers, and played at times against the other team’s best. A pivotal role,” said Maurice. “A lot more controlled in his game. He’s become an elite guy on the back end.”
Byfuglien leads all Jets defencemen with 17 goals and 45 points this season.
“He still has a lot of offence, clearly,” said Maurice. “He has an offensive mindset when he plays the game. But he’s really put some structure in his game.”
On Mar. 1, the Jets began a stretch that sees the team play every second night until the season wraps up in Los Angeles on Apr. 9. Over that 39 day span the Jets play 21 games.
Tonight’s match up against the Flyers is the 15th game of that gruelling stretch.
“I’ve never seen a schedule where you would go six straight weeks without two days off. We’re trying a bunch of different things in terms of recovery,” Maurice said. “We’re trying to push things in terms of how we can recover in a schedule like that because I have a sense that we’ll probably be seeing this again some time.”