GLENDALE, Arizona -- With two wins following the Christmas break secured, the Winnipeg Jets look to continue that string of success on the road tonight in Arizona against the Coyotes.
A win tonight would not only improve the club’s 6-12-1 record away from MTS Centre, it would also be the first time this season the Jets would have a win streak longer than two games.
“We just have to bring the same game we do at home,” said forward Mathieu Perreault. “The start will be key. If we can get a good start and maybe get a lead, and try to play with the lead - because we’ve been doing pretty good as of late, the last few games at least - when we get a lead and after that taking care of things.
“We had a real tough road trip. But even on that road trip, we played well in Dallas and we played well in St. Louis,” said coach Paul Maurice, of a four-game road trip through the Central Division where the Jets went winless. “I don’t think the number as it stands is indicative of how we’ve played or how we feel about the road, but it’s the fact of how good we’ve been on the road. We’ve got to get over that crest. We’re going to have to win road games and we’re going to have keep our home record as it is.”
Tonight’s New Year’s Eve clash at Gila River Arena begins a season-long five-game road trip for the Jets, which has stops in San Jose, Anaheim, Nashville, and Dallas along the way. But first, they have to get by an Arizona team with a record of 4-2-2 in their last eight games, putting them tied for third in the Pacific Division.
“They’re a young, fast team with a lot of skill. If you’re not ready to skate they’ll jump all over you off the top,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “We’re going to have to be ready to skate. Just have that mindset of trying to give them nothing and see what we get from that.”
The Jets won the only other meeting of the season between the two teams, back on Nov. 21 at MTS Centre. That night Chris Thorburn scored shorthanded with 8:51 remaining to give the Jets a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Bryan Little said earlier in the season the Jets had to get comfortable in tight games like that one. Perreault agrees, and feels that confidence is growing.
“We have to take pride in not being scored on, blocking a shot, doing the right things. It gets the bench fired up, and that’s what we’ve been doing the last few games,” he said. “Just work as hard as we can, do all the little things, and it’s been working for us. This is the thing we have to do: Take care of our own end, and the offence will be there for us.”
On most nights, the offence has been there for the Jets. They still sit in the top half of the league in goals scored. Defensively, Winnipeg’s goals against ranking continues to improve, with the Jets placed 23rd going into tonight.
There are many reasons for that, but over the course of the two-game win streak the Jets carry into tonight, they’ve allowed only one goal. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has made 63 saves on 64 shots since Christmas, and the line of Ladd, Adam Lowry, and Alexander Burmistrov have limited the scoring opportunities of opposing teams.
“Especially against Pittsburgh we did a good job of limiting the chances of Malkin’s line. That’s the key for us,” said Ladd, who scored in Winnipeg’s last game, a 4-1 win over Detroit. “Defensively doing the right things, and hopefully you can grow into having a job of shutting the other team’s top line down.”
Now Ladd and his teammates look to carry that success on the road, in Winnipeg’s 20th road game of the season.
“Just getting one win. I think that will go a long way confidence wise. We’ve had some good efforts, we’ve just ended up on the wrong side of them,” he said. “So you have to keep battling through that. I don’t think we’ve put too much thought into it being a road game or a home game. You’re going into every game thinking if you won the last one you want to carry it over, if you lost the last one, what can we do better to get this back going.”
Mark Scheifele skated again today, but this time he left the non-contact jersey in the dressing room. He took contact after the skate for the first time since his concussion on Dec. 26.
“We’ll ease into that, a bit of a recovery tomorrow, he’ll have to go through at least another one, so we’re sure,” said Maurice. “(That) one (will be) a little heavier, full on, then after that, he should be ready to roll.”
Ondrej Pavelec travelled with the Jets, but Maurice doesn’t expect him to skate, but added if he does, it won’t be a sign he’s ahead of the curve.
“It’d be just to get the blades back under him. He won’t be doing any movement in the net or things like that,” said Maurice. “We just wanted him here because he’s at a place in his rehab where our strength people are a little more involved and we can work him out five times a day.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com