Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007)
/ Winnipeg Jets
AT THE TEAM HOTEL
ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- Three regular season games remain for the Winnipeg Jets this season. Two of those are on the road. But as the players have said many times throughout the season, the only game that matters is the one ahead of them tonight in St. Louis.
The Jets continue their three-game road trip tonight against the Central Division leading Blues (47-23-7). Both teams will come into the game with momentum. St. Louis beat Chicago 2-1 on Sunday, while the Jets had goals from Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford in a 2-0 win over Minnesota last night, with Ondrej Pavelec making 32 saves for his third shut out of the season.
“I think our back end and low forward did a real good job on shots that came from the outside,” Coach Paul Maurice said after the win. “A big part of that is how (Pavelec) handled the shots. The rebounds aren't as dangerous because he controlled so many, kicked a lot to the corners that we were able to recover on. So we know he can see them, so we're doing a good job clearing them out. But the way he handled rebounds had a lot to do with it.”
The win pushed the Jets back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They now hold the second of two wildcard spots with 94 points. That puts them one clear of Los Angeles, and only two points behind Minnesota for the first wildcard spot.
One of the keys that has helped the Jets during the push for the playoffs has been getting offensive contributions from every line. Jim Slater scored in back-to-back games against the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks (his fourth and fifth goals of the season), Lee Stempniak added a pair of his own in the 5-4 win over Vancouver, and with Adam Lowry scoring his 10th of the season against the Rangers on March 31, the Jets are tied for the league lead in players with double-digit goals, with 11.
After tough finishes in losses to the Chicago Blackhawks and the Rangers, the Jets have responded with wins over Vancouver and Minnesota.
“We were good in those games. We brought back more of an anger,” Maurice said. “I think the Vancouver game there were points where we might have looked a little nervous, that win was huge, not just for the points but also to get the confidence back.”
After arriving in St. Louis after midnight, the Jets didn’t hold a morning skate at Scottrade Center. The Blues did skate, however Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, and Robert Bortuzzo didn’t take part. They’re all expected to miss tonight’s game against Winnipeg. Tarasenko leads the Blues in goals with 36, good enough for seventh in the NHL.
Jake Allen is expected to start in goal for the Blues. Allen leads all rookie goaltenders in wins with 21 this season. The netminder made 38 saves in a 2-1 win over Chicago on Sunday. Coach Paul Maurice will confirm who will start in goal for the Jets closer to game time (7 pm, CT).
Tonight marks the ninth and final time the Jets will play in a back-to-back situation this regular season. With the win over Minnesota last night, the Jets pushed their record in the first half of those situations to 6-3-0. In the second game, the Jets are 3-2-3 so far. Maurice says he spread the ice time around last night in Minnesota, which should help the Jets tonight.
“We should have some decent legs up front, and you get to bring a positive mood (after a win). Very excited after the game, but it's already quieted right down. Pretty even keel in there,” he said. “There's a lot of fight in there. They like playing with each other. It's not a quiet bench during the game. They're wired, but they're enjoying it too. They like each other, that's a big reason why they play so hard for each other.”