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Jets confident in their game ahead of three-game home stand

Winnipeg hosts Nashville on Sunday afternoon

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - With three home games ahead of them, the Winnipeg Jets are looking to get back to their winning ways at Bell MTS Place.

But they know they don't have to reinvent their game to do so.

Fresh off a road trip that saw them pick up five of a possible eight points, the Jets (24-17-4) believe the big bulk of their game is right. They just need to clean up a few areas.

"We had a tough end in Boston, but if we play our game and play good defence, we'll be fine," said Patrik Laine.

"We don't think about the record. We've had some tough games in our own building lately, but the schedule isn't getting any easier for us. We're playing tough teams the next couple weeks. We just have to try and play our own game, the type of game we've played lately, and we'll be fine."

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

Their first chance to snap a five-game winless skid at home comes on Sunday afternoon against the Nashville Predators.

Winnipeg won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, but the Predators are a changed team since that game back on October 19.

John Hynes is now the man behind the bench in Nashville, a move that was officially announced on January 7, one day after the Predators relieved Peter Laviolette of his head coaching duties.

Nashville dropped the first game with Hynes behind the bench to Boston, but rallied for a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

"There might be some slight system variations that their new coach implements. For the most part, we know the style they're going to play, we know the players they have and how capable they are as a team," said Adam Lowry.

"We expect them to come in here - they had a big win against Chicago the other night - they're going to try and get on a roll. We know how crucial the points in the Central Division are. We're going to try and get back on the right foot too."

Video: PRACTICE | Adam Lowry

The Predators will have had a couple of practice sessions with their new coach before arriving in Winnipeg, but head coach Paul Maurice said that really isn't enough time to do any sort of massive system change.

That said, some small things may have changed.

"A new coach comes in, it lets the pressure off. It's a good outlet for the team. They reset," said Maurice.

"They usually come in fast. Everybody wants to show the new guy what they can do - maybe they can change their lot in life, get a few more minutes, get on the power play, be viewed differently than the guy before. 

"They usually have a lot of energy."

Video: PRACTICE | Patrik Laine

As for the Jets, the 25-minute practice session on Saturday was fully attended minus Blake Wheeler, who Maurice says will be good to go for Sunday.

Mark Scheifele was in his familiar spot at centre between Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, a spot he's had since early December.

Since that time, Scheifele's 27 points are the third most in the National Hockey League. His 12 power play points since December 8 are also the most in the NHL, which has helped the Jets operate at 33.3 per cent efficiency - the league's best in that time as well.

Maurice said he's also noticed a shift in Scheifele's play since the shift that saw Wheeler move to centre.

"There are things that he's doing now with the puck that you're not sure you're seeing it. He seems to be shooting at slightly different angles," said Maurice.

"What's happened is he's taken on the responsibility that Blake had when he was on that line of getting in on the forecheck and being heavy down low and hanging onto pucks because he needs to for that line to operate well.

"Like with most things that Mark puts his mind to, he's excelling at it."

The full line rushes on Saturday looked like this:

Connor-Scheifele-Laine

Ehlers-Harkings (Wheeler)-Roslovic

Copp-Lowry-Perreault

Bourque-Shore-Appleton

Morrissey-Poolman

Kulikov-Pionk

Bitetto-Sbisa

Dahlstrom-Niku

The notable flip is that Jack Roslovic and Andrew Copp have changed back to the spots they started the recent four-game road trip on.

During the third stop in Toronto, Maurice put Copp with Nikolaj Ehlers and Wheeler, where he stayed throughout the road trip finale in Boston.

"It was the match coming off the bench. They didn't seem to mind running (Auston) Matthews there for a little bit," said Maurice.

"They had some shifts against Boston's big line, so I wanted a little bit more coverage with Blake there."

Video: PRACTICE | Josh Morrissey

Sunday's tilt is one of only three divisional games the Jets have in the month of January, so Lowry said there is added emphasis on not only getting back on track at home, but earning valuable points within the division.

"Every game is important, but when you look at how important the standings are and how close the teams are in the Central Division and banking those points, it goes a long way to helping you in the standings," said Lowry.

"We want to keep trying to move up in the standings and play well. Over the last few games, especially that road trip, for the most part we really liked how we played. We'll try and implement that and get back on the right foot at home."

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