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Jets visit Red Wings on Hockey Day in Canada

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

AT THE MORNING SKATE

DETROIT, Michigan – Growing up in Kitchener, Ontario, Mark Scheifele idolized Steve Yzerman. Now, at 21, the Winnipeg Jets forward will play in the very rink his favourite player’s number 19 hangs: Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s only my second time here (as a professional),” Scheifele said after today’s morning skate. “It’s still pretty exciting, and it’s always fun to play in a place like this.”

Scheifele will have his family in attendance tonight when the Jets (28-19-10) look to even the season series with the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit picked up a 4-3 win at MTS Centre in November, and even though Jets defenceman Mark Stuart says that game almost feels like an eternity ago, there are things the Jets can take from it.

“These guys are really quick, and they’ve got good sticks,” Stuart said. “They’re so good with the puck. As defencemen we need to have good sticks as well and be quick down low, and take away their time and space.”

Detroit has created some space for themselves in the Atlantic Division. Their record of 31-13-9 puts them eight points up on Boston, who sits fourth in the Atlantic and holds the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. The Red Wings currently hold down the third divisional playoff spot.

The one word echoed in the Winnipeg dressing room when talking about the Red Wings was skill. But the Jets are confident in their style of game, and how it matches up against Detroit.

“For us, the way we’ve been playing lately, I think if we come out the same way, play hard, finish checks, get on their defence, and play the style of game we’ve been playing, I think we’ll be fine,” said forward Mathieu Perreault, who had two points against the Red Wings back on November 20, 2014. “They maybe don’t hit as much (as Nashville) but they play really hard. For us it’s the same game as in Nashville. We have to come hard and play as hard as we can.”

The Red Wings are ninth in the NHL in goals for with 154, but what Head Coach Paul Maurice feels has made Detroit successful long term is their defence. True to Maurice’s word, the Red Wings also have the fifth least goals against in the NHL, with 127.

“They don’t get on the wrong side of the puck. They’ve got confidence and experience so they don’t need to cheat the game to generate offense,” Maurice said. “They’re not going to give you anything, and they’re going to go as quick as they can.”

Michael Hutchinson is the projected starter tonight. So far, Hutchinson has a record of 15-7-5, with a 2.19 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. His performance, along with Ondrej Pavelec’s play, has helped put the Jets in the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference. But with 25 games to go, Maurice says the Jets aren’t letting the standings creep into their minds too much.

“You’re going to win games and lose games in a playoff race. And it’s a cliché, but there’s a real powerful point to having that even keel,” said Maurice. “It’s fun now. It’s exciting. You can feel it at this time of the year, the energy in the room. The eyes in the meetings. You don’t have to start talking louder to get guys’ eyes off the floor, they’re wired in.”

Perreault feels taking that energy and applying it to a quick start at Joe Louis Arena tonight will be an important step to success for the Jets.

“It’s huge. This is what we’ve been working on all year,” he said. “This is what the Jets are about. We always come out really hard and it’s going to be no different tonight.”

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

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