WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets are 5-1-0 against opponents on the back half of back-to-backs, and with the San Jose Sharks coming into the Manitoba capital off a 5-4 win in Calgary last night, the Jets hope to improve on that record tonight.
“If anything it plays more of a key role later in the game. I think every team is used to playing back-to-backs by now. If anything, you have to wear them down throughout the game and it kind of pays off later,” said forward Bryan Little. “I don’t think we even want to be thinking about how they played last night.
“It’s a new game, and they’re going to be ready to play. It’s another Western Conference team that’s trying to get points from us. We’re just trying to get something going at home right now.”
A win tonight would also get the Jets (19-20-3) back on track at home, following the 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Sunday. Including tonight, the Jets play eight of their next nine games at MTS Centre, where they’re currently 11-6-1.
“It would have been nice to win that first one at home to get something going, but we can’t go back and undo that,” Little said. “The next best thing is to win tonight and hopefully get something rolling.”
After leaving Sunday’s game against Buffalo with an injury, and not skating at yesterday’s practice, Mathieu Perreault is expected to play tonight. The 28-year-old is third on the team in points with 28.
“I feel good now. There was just a play in the third where I was driving the net and I kind of got pushed and I landed on my back,” said Perreault. “I took yesterday off and today felt pretty good.”
Perreault scored in the Jets last meeting with the Sharks, back on Jan. 2 at SAP Center. Winnipeg skated to a 4-1 win that night. Since then, San Jose (20-18-2) has scored 13 goals in three games, including a 7-0 win over Toronto.
“They’ve got a lot of guys with speed that cause problems on the way up the ice and confusion into your own end,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “Just watching the game last night, if you turn it over at their blue line to the tops of the circles, they countered back either in alone or 2-on-1 at least four times that I counted. That’s their strength. Their transition off broken plays is very good.”
Much of the talk in the dressing room since Sunday’s game has been about getting traffic to the front of the net. The Jets put up 44 shots against Buffalo, the third time this season they’ve put 40 shots or more at their opponents.
“We talked about it. They did a pretty good job of boxing us out and making their goalie able to see the puck,” said Perreault. “We’ve got to find a way to battle and get in front of him more. We have to get in front of goalies because all the goalies in this league are too good. If they see the puck, they’re going to make the save.”
“I think you look at a lot of goals scored today, and there’s traffic in front of the net, or the goalie can’t see the puck,” said Little. “We had a lot of shots last game, but we didn’t have a lot of traffic right in front of the goalie’s eyes and he saw a lot of those pucks and shots. We definitely want to make it a lot harder on their goaltender tonight.”
The puck drops at MTS Centre at 7 pm CT.
SHUT DOWN ROLE
Since being recalled from the Manitoba Moose on Dec. 27, 2015, Adam Lowry has two goals, and a +2 rating in eight games.
“The block of games since he’s come back looks the way I’d envisioned him playing,” said Maurice. “What we liked most about Adam early on is he just had a great defensive stick. He could knock pucks down… We’re really seeing it from him. His stride is back longer, he’s touching the puck at centre ice. He’s back looking the way we had hoped he would.”
Along with line-mates Andrew Ladd and Alexander Burmistrov, the trio has impressed Maurice, putting up a combined +1 rating since the beginning of 2016.
“Andrew understands that role shift in his game. Different players, different sides of the ice, but he’s accepted it and he’s excited about it,” said Maurice. “He’s taken it to heart and played really well, and been a big part of us being able to win some games on the road.
“And Burmistrov’s game kind of all at the same time, his game has really gotten to another level physically, decision-making wise, turnover wise, the things you can’t do in that role. It’s been a good line for us, we had them spend a fair amount of time against Thornton in San Jose, but we’ve moved them around and they’ve been solid.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com