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Jets conclude season-long road trip in Dallas

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

DALLAS, Texas -- Tonight’s game in Dallas against the Stars wraps up a season-long road trip for the Winnipeg Jets, and with their road record sitting at 8-14-1 going into tonight’s game, Tyler Myers says the coming home with three wins on the five-game trip would be huge for the club.

“It would be big for sure. We’ve had some tough road trips already this first half,” said Myers. “To come out above .500 on this five-gamer would be a huge win for us.”

So far the Jets (19-19-2) have split the four games they’ve played on the trip that began Dec. 31, 2015 in Arizona. Winnipeg picked up 4-1 wins over San Jose and Nashville along the way, and head coach Paul Maurice believes road wins like those do a lot for dressing room morale.

“It’s a real important part of team bonding, you’ve got to be good on the road,” said Maurice. “You’ve got to be able to get on the airplane and come to morning skates, and have meetings where you’re feeling light and feeling good, and excited about a game tonight. A couple wins in our last three will do that for you.”

But forward Bryan Little, who played 19:27 in that win over the Predators, says the team has room to improve over that victory.

“We know we can play better and help our goalie out more. We don’t want to come in tonight thinking our goalie is going to have to make 50 saves again,” Little said of Connor Hellebuyck’s 43-save effort in Nashville. “It’s nice to get a win and get that confidence, but at the same time we want to play better, and we want to have a better start to the game.”

Getting a win won’t be easy at American Airlines Center, where the Dallas Stars (28-10-4) have the most home wins of any team in the National Hockey League, with 16. But Dallas is coming off a winless road trip (0-2-1), including a 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday night.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin didn’t register a point on the trip, but still lead the Stars in points with 52 and 50 respectively. Stars coach Lindy Ruff is starting tonight’s game with the two on separate lines for the first time this season.

“I don’t think it changes it too much. They’ve played together all year so the fact they’re not, they’re still the same players as they were playing together,” Myers said. “We’re going to treat it the same way. Try and limit their time and space with a good gap, and just limit their chances with the puck.”

Offensively the Stars continue to lead the league in goals scored with 145, which is 23 more than the next closest team. It’s a big reason the Stars continue to lead the Central Division.

“They lead the league in shots from a scoring area, and while there is structure to it, what makes them good is their ability to improvise off rushes and make plays. The back end is so active,” said Maurice. “If you don’t have a good (read) on them early, you’re going to have a hard time finding them later in the play, because they can skate well, and they do find the open man.

“Maybe they’ll make plays at times, but they’ll shoot the puck too. They’ll shoot the puck and drive the net. They have a tremendous amount of skill and a real good base of speed to go with it.”

A win tonight would also improve Winnipeg’s record within the Central Division. Tuesday’s win over Nashville was the fourth win the Jets have posted against a divisional opponent, and it was crucial, as it moved the club within five points of the Predators for the final Western Conference wildcard spot.

“The win in Nashville was pretty big for us,” said forward Andrew Copp. “We have to make up some of those points. Especially in the Central Division, we haven’t been as good as we’ve wanted to be, so it’s a big one tonight.”

Puck drop tonight is 7:30 pm CT.

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

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