WINNIPEG - For the second time this month, the Winnipeg Jets separate road trips with a one-game stop at MTS Centre. Tonight, it’s the Dallas Stars in town, a team the Jets will face again on Thursday at American Airlines Center.
“You want to definitely send a message tonight. You’re at home, you want them to know what they’re up against,” said forward Mathieu Perreault. “Hopefully we can take the first one, and look for the second after.”
Perreault will be in the line-up tonight after missing yesterday’s practice at MTS Iceplex. However, Bryan Little will miss his second consecutive game since being injured in the 6-5 shoot out loss to Tampa Bay.
Little wore a non-contact jersey in the morning skate today, the same one he wore at yesterday’s session.
“(He) didn’t step back from that coming into today, but didn’t walk in saying ‘hey I’m ready and I’m right,’” said head coach Paul Maurice. “Tomorrow is the big day. If he can get through practice tomorrow in a contact sweater, and then get off that flight - because that’s another hitch with these kinds of injuries - then we would look for him in Dallas hopefully.”
The Jets and Stars have met three times this season, with the Jets going 0-2-1 in those match ups. Blake Wheeler has one goal against Dallas this season, while his line mate Nikolaj Ehlers leads the team with three points against the Stars. The two speedy wingers will be joined by Mark Scheifele with Little out tonight.
“(Scheifele) is a really dangerous player, especially when he’s moving his feet,” said Wheeler. “Hopefully he gets those legs moving tonight. If Nik and I are trying to keep up to Scheifs, we’re going to have a good night.”
Wheeler believes each meeting with the Stars has come down to a timely mistake from his team.
“They’ve found a way to score the big goal in the third period it seems like. We’ve played them tough,” he said. “One mistake by us that they’ve capitalized on here or there, and they’ve pulled away from us. I don’t think we’re far off.”
The two players capitalizing the most for the Stars all season have been Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who sit second and third in league scoring with 67 and 65 points respectively.
Maurice says players like that don’t need many opportunities to find the back of the net. The key tonight is being smart offensively, and not forcing things that aren’t there. The coach believes that is what got the Jets in trouble against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
“We’re in alone five times in that game, and you lose that game. You rarely get that number of ‘A’ chances in a game, but that’s true of the Dallas Stars games,” said Maurice. “When you’re not scoring on those chances you start putting pucks in the middle of the ice that you don’t need to do. Now you’re chasing it down the ice, and that’s the Dallas Stars.
“If they don’t kill you off the rush, the chaos that ensues off that rush with their fourth and sometimes their fifth man in, because you forced something in the offensive zone. That will be a defining characteristic of the game.”
Tonight marks the beginning of the only home-and-home the Jets have on their schedule this season. Winnipeg has seen its home record fall to 13-13-1 after dropping three straight at MTS Centre.
Perreault says that’s something the room wants to change, and fast.
“This has always been a tough building to play in for visiting teams. As of late, it hasn’t been that hard,” said Perreault. “So we have to get back to that, playing physical in-your-face games. So when teams come in here, they know they’re in one, so hopefully we can do that.”