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At the Rink: Penguins at Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG --The top question for the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday will be how to stop the Pittsburgh Penguins power play.

The Penguins have won five consecutive games and have the NHL's best power play. Pittsburgh is 41.3 percent with the man advantage and 42.9 percent on the road. The Penguins have scored power-play goals in their past five games, going 11-for 24.

Adding to the equation will be the Jets' tendency toward penalty trouble this season. Winnipeg has allowed the third-most power plays in the League this season. The Jets are tied for fourth on the penalty kill and have not allowed a power-play goal in their past four games (12-for-12), but the message inside the dressing room Thursday was to avoid the penalty box.

"We [must avoid] penalties," Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian said. "Penalties happen, but the best way to kill penalties is to not take them."

But Pittsburgh presents a challenge beyond the power play for the Jets, who have won three straight games and have points in their past six games (5-0-1). Winnipeg is in the middle of a stretch of nine of 11 games on the road and begins a five-game road trip Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

"They're more than just great players," Jets coach Paul Maurice said of the Penguins, whose 4.09 goals per game lead the League. "They're a structured group, and because they have good structure in their game they get to move faster.

"For us, I'm looking for our gap control more than anything else, that we have the confidence to keep a tight gap on some players that can beat you one-on-one. You just can't give those guys any ice to play on, so we have to play that tight-gap game. As we always say, Pittsburgh doesn't need any help creating offense, so we have to do things with the puck that don't feed their game."

The Penguins' five-game road trip is their longest of the season, and they held an optional morning skate Thursday after practicing Wednesday when they arrived in Winnipeg.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who signed a four-year, $23 million contract extension Wednesday, will start against Winnipeg, and the Penguins are expected to dress the same lineup that they used in a 4-1 win Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Fleury has shutouts in his past two games for the first time in his career and in three of his past four games.

Maurice will use the same lineup that he dressed against the Nashville Predators in a 3-1 win Tuesday. Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec will start against Pittsburgh, and has a 4-0-1 record, one shutout, a 1.15 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in his past five starts.

"I like their structure and their team play," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said of Winnipeg. "That's what you always look for when you're pre-scouting a team. How much structure do they have and how much identity do they have to their game, and I see a lot in the Winnipeg Jets right now, and it's really starting to evolve."

Here are the projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Pascal Dupuis - Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau

Nick Spaling - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Christian Ehrhoff - Robert Bortuzzo

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Scott Harrington

Injured: Olli Maatta (neck)

JETS

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Evander Kane - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Dustin Byfuglien

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn

Tobias Enstrom - Zach Bogosian

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Grant Clitsome - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Matt Halischuk, Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso

Injured: None

Status report: Adams will play his 300th consecutive game for the Penguins ... Little will play his 500th NHL game… Peluso (upper body) was cleared to play Wednesday, but will not dress against Pittsburgh.

Who's hot: Malkin's 11-game points streak is the League's longest this season. The streak is the fourth longest streak of Malkin's career…Fleury has a 154:46 shutout streak, the longest of his career. He is 18:20 from tying Pittsburgh's franchise record of 173:16 set by Tomas Vokoun…The Pittsburgh penalty kill has killed off its past 30 shorthanded situations…The Winnipeg power play had two goals Tuesday after scoring three times in the first 12 games of the season.

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