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Jets can push Sabres back in race for eighth

by Patrick Williams
WINNIPEG -- Every game going forward for the time being is crucial for the Winnipeg Jets.

But now the Jets (31-27-8) have company in tonight's game with the Buffalo Sabres at the MTS Centre that concludes an eight-game homestand. Written off some time ago, the Sabres have rolled off a 6-0-2 run and can pass the Jets tonight with a regulation win and take over eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Jets have managed a 4-1-2 homestand so far, piling up 29 goals in the process, but have yet to be able to put distance between themselves and the Sabres, Washington, Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Florida Panthers have extended their Southeast Division lead over the Jets to four games. Five of Winnipeg’s final 16 games will pit them against Southeast Division clubs still jostling for playoff positioning.

Jets coach Claude Noel knows that his club will be facing a tough Buffalo opponent riding a wave of confidence.

"They're in a good place right now when you watch them play," Noel said. "They look like they play with confidence. They look like they're feeding off their goaltender. They look like they're certainly feeling good about things. They're a dangerous group."

Defenseman Zach Bogosian, who returned for last Thursday's 7-0 win over Florida after a seven-game absence (upper body), will again miss action due to a lower-body injury. Grant Clitsome will make his Jets debut and take Bogosian's spot in a pairing with Ron Hainsey.

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Jets:

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Tim Stapleton - Nik Antropov - Antti Miettinen

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Grant Clitsome
Randy Jones - Mark Stuart

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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