The Winnipeg Jets get set to take on the Dallas Stars this afternoon as they search for their first win in three games this week against Central Division rivals.
The Jets (14-14-5) are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, just two days after losing a close battle to the St. Louis Blues, 2-1.
Dallas (14-11-5) is eager to get back in to the win column after dropping their last two games, falling 3-1 to the Nashville Predators in their most recent match Thursday.
With that, here are five things to keep your eye on in tonight’s game:
It’s the third game between these two teams this season. The Stars took the first of two meetings in October. Dallas exploded for three goals in the first period en route to a 4-1 win. Blake Wheeler scored the lone goal for the Jets – a third period power play marker for his first of the season.
The Jets evened the season series, stealing a 2-1 shootout win in Dallas just two weeks later. Evander Kane scored with 3:28 in to the second period and Andrew Ladd scored the only goal in the shootout for the win.
With a win, the Jets will have the edge in the season series and their first against a Central Division opponent. Winnipeg is 3-10-3 in divisional games this year.
Stars captain Jamie Benn and line-mate, Tyler Seguin, have become one of the most dynamic duos in the National Hockey League. Since being acquired in the offseason from the Boston Bruins, Seguin has instantly clicked with his new team.
Seguin leads the Stars in points this season with 15 goals and 12 assists, just a point more than Benn’s 26 (7g, 19a). Together they’re a combined plus-15, and have been a major headache for opposing teams in all ends of the ice.
Seguin and Benn tallied three goals and four assists the last time they visited Winnipeg. If the Jets want to come away with win, it will have to start with shutting down these two.
No more excuses
Jets forward Blake Wheeler made headlines following Tuesday night’s loss when he claimed the team had been taking positives out of losses for far too long. The Jets top line winger was one of the few Jets who showed up that night, scoring twice in the loss for his first multiple-goal game this season.
Wheeler went goalless in the month of November, but leads the team in goals this month with four. He has six points in his last five games and is beginning to hit stride after a slow start to the season. He led the Jets in goals last season with 19.
Rolling on the PP
Keep an eye out for the Jets power play today. Winnipeg has scored power play goals in back-to-back games now; quite the feat for a team that’s spent a majority of the season ranked dead last in the league.
The Jets are now ranked 28th in the league with the man advantage, converting on 12.5 per cent of their opportunities. Coach Claude Noel has gone with a few different looks on the PP, including some increased time for rookie Mark Scheifele.
On the road, Dallas is ranked 27th in the league on the penalty kill. The Stars have allowed 15 goals to opponents in 59 trips to the PK.
Keeping it close
The Jets have perfected the close game this season. Winnipeg is tied with Calgary for the most games decided by a single goal. In 32 games this year, 20 of those games have been decided by one goal. The Jets are 8-7-5 in those games.
The Jets also lead the league in most shootout games this season with nine, tied with the Washington Capitals. Winnipeg enjoyed some early success in the shootout this year, winning five of their first six games that went to extra shots. They have since dropped the last three including last game’s 4-3 loss to Colorado.
Prediction: 2-1 Jets
Winnipeg has the tendency to start day games slow, but if they can prevent an early offensive outburst similar to the one the last time these two teams met, they should be okay. Dallas lacks depth up front and if Winnipeg can shut down their top-line, it should be enough. Jets snap five-game losing streak at home.