WINNIPEG -- The losses and the pressure are mounting for the Winnipeg Jets, and a date Friday with the St. Louis Blues does not seem like much relief.
"The competitive nature of the [Western Conference] is fierce right now," Jets coach Claude Noel said.
The Jets (3-4-0) are in the middle of a six-game homestand but have lost four of their past five games. Winnipeg faces a difficult 10-game stretch that begins Friday, and Noel's team needs points to keep pace in the Central Division.
Winnipeg will meet the Blues for the first time since realignment put the clubs in the same division. The Blues (5-1-0) arrived in Winnipeg early Friday morning from Chicago, where they had beaten the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout Thursday. St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock did not schedule a morning skate for his team.
Winnipeg received a scare Wednesday when left wing Evander Kane, who is tied for the team lead with three goals, fell awkwardly at practice in a drill along the boards with Anthony Peluso, injuring his right leg. Kane missed the remainder of the practice session and did not skate Thursday,
Kane will take the pregame warm-up and the team then will make a final decision on his status for the game; however, Kane said he's ready to play.
"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent by any means, but [it is] good enough to play," said Kane, who said the injury is not knee-related. "As long as I can stand up out there I'll play."
Poor starts this season have hampered the Jets on home ice and the team has emphasized the need to dictate the game's pace and style to opponents at MTS Centre.
"It's almost like we wait for the game to get started and see how it goes," Noel said. "I think we have to set the pace and tempo of the game, especially in this building, and get the fans involved in the game. We can't wait to see what dictates the pace of the game."
The Blues play a very physical style and will offer the Jets an up-close example of the Western Conference's heavy, grinding style. Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian plays such a style and would like to see his team match the Blues' physical play Friday and in future games.
"We can make it hard on teams if we're physical," Bogosian said. "Those ones are also more fun to play, the ones that are on the edge a little bit. I think we have to make sure that we play with a little more attitude and edge."
Noel, who shuffled his forward lines earlier this week, will adjust his defensive pairings against St. Louis. Grant Clitsome will return to the lineup after missing two games as a healthy scratch; he'll replace Paul Postma. Noel will break up the Tobias Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien top pairing, placing Clitsome with Byfuglien while partnering Enstrom with Bogosian. Jacob Trouba will skate alongside Mark Stuart.
Noel said one benefit of the change will be Bogosian playing on his natural side; he had been playing on his off-hand side while partnered with Trouba.
"Things are a lot different on the left side," Bogosian said with a smile.
Centers Bryan Little and Jim Slater dealt with nagging injuries this week that cost them practice time, but both are expected to dress against the Blues.
Hitchcock will rest goaltender Jaroslav Halak and give Brian Elliott his first start of the season. Elliott’s lone appearance this season was a relief outing Tuesday in a 6-2 home loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Blues' only defeat this season. Noel will counter with Ondrej Pavelec.
Here are the probable lineups for the Blues and Jets on Friday:
Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi - Derek Roy - Chris Stewart
Vladimir Sobotka - Adam Cracknell - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Jordan Leopold - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ian Cole - Roman Polak
Scratched: Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow
Suspended: Maxim Lapierre
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi - Olli Jokinen - Devin Setoguchi
James Wright - Jim Slater - Matt Halischuk
Grant Clitsome - Dustin Byfuglien
Tobias Enstrom - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Scratched: Patrice Cormier, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma
Injured: Chris Thorburn (lower body)