WINNIPEG – With points in three straight, the Winnipeg Jets are feeling good about their game again.
“We’re starting to recreate some of the positive things we were doing before,” Jets winger Blake Wheeler said after a 25-minute practice Monday at MTS Centre.
“It started in Vancouver. We played a really solid game and it just didn’t go our way. We were a good bounce away in Chicago, too.”
Persistence pays off.
Following a colossal win over the Central Division rival Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night, the Jets have now secured 64 points on the year, eight up on the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars in the Western Conference wild card race.
The Wild, who square off with the Vancouver Canucks tonight in the front half of a back-to-back set, are in town tomorrow for a 7:00pm CT puck drop at MTS Centre.
The Wild are red-hot of late, winning five straight after losing eight of their previous 10 contests.
Devan Dubnyk, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14, can be credited for that, recording four shutouts in his first nine starts with the Wild, including three in his last five for a staggering save percentage of .948.
Dubnyk is getting the start in Vancouver, so expect to see Darcy Kuemper get the call tomorrow against the Jets.
Of course, no matter who’s between the pipes, the Jets will have their hands full.
“They’re playing well,” Wheeler said. “They’re a team where it wasn’t happening earlier in the year, but they have a lot of firepower. For us, it’s all about staying patient with our game and playing a defensive-style game. When there’s a lot of talent on the other side, you really want to frustrate them and not give them any scoring chances.”
Wheeler, who has 15 goals and 41 points this season, is looking forward to the challenge.
“We’re a team that has to be on our game. We can’t be a little bit off,” he said, noting the importance of tomorrow’s pivotal Central Division matchup. “We’ve been in that (playoff) mode for a while now and that’s what’s been giving us success. We approach every game with that type of motivation.
"They’re all huge games down the stretch and we understand that, but we can’t get away from what we do well.”
“There will be lots of heat in that game tomorrow," Maurice added. "We’re in the range now where we’re hitting teams that are fighting for their lives and we’re in a group of teams that are not far enough off anybody to be comfortable."
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com