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Jets host Canucks in battle of desperate teams

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Two desperate teams play Wednesday at MTS Centre when the Winnipeg Jets host the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks arrived Tuesday off a 7-4 home loss against the New York Islanders when they surrendered a 3-0 lead and allowed seven third-period goals.

The Canucks will not have any time to dwell on the loss when they attempt to stay in the Western Conference race for a wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Canucks and Jets sit at 68 points, six points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild-card spot. The Jets hold a game in hand on the Canucks. The Phoenix Coyotes, who have 73 points, also separate the Canucks and Jets from Dallas.

The Canucks opted to not hold a morning skate Wednesday. Canucks forward Zack Kassian will serve the final of his three-game suspension for his hit on Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon on March 6.

A four-game losing streak (0-2-2) has put the Jets in a desperate situation and undone some of the progress of an 11-3-1 run after coach Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel on Jan. 12.

"We need both points right now," center Bryan Little said of the Jets, who lost 3-2 in overtime Monday at the Colorado Avalanche. "The teams that we are chasing are playing well and winning games. You look at the standings and they're starting to get a bit of a gap on us. Every game is big and we need two points."

Despite the nature of Vancouver's loss Monday, Maurice said he expects the Canucks to present a challenge.

"There aren't any explanations for the third [period Monday]," Maurice said. "You just need to get out of town. They're going to come in here with the idea that [they] can forget that game if [they] can win [against the Jets] with all of the weight on them, the standings, everything. So I expect them to be at their best."

The Jets recalled center Eric O'Dell from the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. O'Dell, who has two goals and an assist in eight games with the Jets this season, will replace injured center John Albert on the fourth line. Joining O'Dell will be left wing Chris Thorburn, who missed three games with an upper-body injury.

After the Jets' morning skate, Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom spent some time on the ice at MTS Centre in an informal session, so it is expected Eddie Lack will start for the visitors. Ondrej Pavelec will play for the Jets after backing up Al Montoya on Monday.

Here are the projected lineups for the Canucks and Jets:


Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Nicklas Jensen

Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Jannik Hansen

Tom Sestito - Shawn Matthias - David Booth

Darren Archibald - Jordan Schroeder - Zac Dalpe

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev

Alexander Edler - Kevin Bieksa

Jason Garrison - Yannick Weber

Eddie Lack

Jacob Markstrom

Suspended: Zack Kassian

Injured: Andrew Alberts (concussion), Brad Richardson (undisclosed), Mike Santorelli (shoulder), Daniel Sedin (lower body), Ryan Stanton (undisclosed)


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik

Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Devin Setoguchi

Dustin Byfuglien - Jim Slater - Blake Wheeler

Chris Thorburn - Eric O'Dell - Anthony Peluso

Zach Bogosian - Tobias Enstrom

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Adam Pardy - Keaton Ellerby

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Scratched: Matt Halischuk, Paul Postma, Eric Tangradi

Injured: John Albert (upper body), Grant Clitsome (back), Mark Scheifele (knee), James Wright (ankle)

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