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Jets hope to rediscover home success vs. Predators

by Patrick Williams

PREDATORS (2-0-1) at JETS (1-2-0)


WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets open their home schedule Friday against the Nashville Predators needing to re-establish dominance at MTS Centre.

Friday marks the start of a five-game homestand for the Jets, who have been outscored 7-1 in losing their past two games after they opened the season with a 6-2 win at the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 9.

Jets coach Paul Maurice offered a simple message for his players prior to the home-opener.

"Enjoy it," he said. "Get fired up. Use the crowd, for sure."

Home ice served the Jets well during the 2011-12 season, their first in Winnipeg, when they had a 23-13-5 record. But the Jets have a 31-27-7 home record the past two seasons, and their 18 home wins last season were the third-fewest in the NHL.

"Over the past couple of years we [have expected] more out of ourselves, and I think the fans expect more out of us," Jets center Bryan Little said. "I think there has been more pressure from the people of Winnipeg, but we put that on ourselves too. We know that the way we have been playing is not good enough. We're trying to take the next step."

Maurice will use Dustin Byfuglien on the top line with center Mark Scheifele and right wing Blake Wheeler to replace Evander Kane (knee).

"[Byfuglien] is just such a big presence," Wheeler said. "He creates so much time and space for [Scheifele and me]. I think it helps simplify things, especially in the offensive zone."

The Predators begin a two-game road trip this weekend, their first away from Bridgestone Arena this season; after Winnipeg they'll play at the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

First-year Predators coach Peter Laviolette is implementing a more up-tempo and possession-oriented system after replacing Barry Trotz. After beginning the season with wins against the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars, Laviolette thought his players "were a bit on their heels" in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

"That's a tough way to play and be successful," Laviolette said. "We were fortunate to get a point and get out of there. The first couple of games we liked the way we played the game, and we need to try to resemble that identity a little bit more."

Laviolette still is considering different line combinations and defense pairings. One likely move Friday will be shifting rookie Filip Forsberg, who has a three-game point streak and is tied for third in scoring among NHL rookies with four points, to play the left side of the first line with center Mike Ribeiro and right wing James Neal.

The Predators activated left wing Viktor Stalberg (lower body) from injured reserve and he will skate on the second line. Gabriel Bourque will move to the fourth line in place of right wing Taylor Beck.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne will start his fourth consecutive game for the Predators while the Jets will counter with Ondrej Pavelec.

Here are the projected lineups:


Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal

Viktor Stalberg - Derek Roy - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Calle Jarnkrok - Olli Jokinen

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Gabriel Bourque

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Anton Volchenkov - Seth Jones

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Taylor Beck, Rich Clune

Injured: Matt Cullen (upper body), Mike Fisher (Achilles tendon)


Dustin Byfuglien - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Adam Lowry - Mathieu Perreault - Chris Thorburn

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Tobias Enstrom - Zach Bogosian

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Grant Clitsome, Matt Halischuk

Injured: Evander Kane (knee)

Status report: Jokinen will make his return to Winnipeg, where he played the past two seasons with the Jets. ... The Predators have six third-period goals this season, tying them for third in the League; they've allowed one goal in the third. ... The Jets are scoreless in nine power-play attempts this season, but they are tied for first in the NHL on the penalty kill (14-for-14). ... After missing 50 games last season because of back surgery, Jets defenseman Grant Clitsome is healthy but has not dressed for a game this season.

Who's hot: Rinne, who missed 51 games last season because of a hip injury, has started all three games for the Predators. He has a 1.62 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. ... Little has three goals in the Jets' first three games.

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