The Winnipeg Jets return home to the MTS Centre Saturday following a short, two-game road trip to welcome the Anaheim Ducks to town.
The Jets (15-9-6) picked up three of a possible four points on the road, beating the Dallas Stars 5-2 Tuesday before falling to the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime Thursday.
The Ducks (20-6-5) come to town for the second of back-to-back games in Western Canada. Anaheim beat up on the Oilers Friday night 4-2 to earn their sixth straight win.
With that, here are five things to consider for tonight’s game:
Ducks déjà vu
It will be the second time in less than a week that the Jets and Ducks battle it out. The Ducks downed the Jets in overtime 4-3 Sunday, setting the stage for another heated battle between the two Western Conference opponents.
Together, the Jets and Ducks racked up 49 penalty minutes with each team getting six trips to the power play, both ending the game two-for-six with the main advantage.
There’s no such thing as a short memory in the NHL, so expect another rough affair as the Jets look to get back into the win column.
Jets forward Evander Kane returns to the scene of the crime for his first game back after serving a two-game suspension for an illegal check on Ducks’ D-man Clayton Stoner Sunday.
Kane was addressed a five-minute penalty on the play and was ejected from the game.
Winnipeg was able to successfully kill off the penalty, helped by the fact Stoner was also addressed two minutes for roughing after he had his face driven into the boards from behind.
“It is what it is,” said Kane of his suspension after Saturday morning’s skate. “Obviously there are some differing opinions. It’s over now.”
It’s rare that a player returns to action against the very team he was suspended against, and given how upset Stoner was after the play, it will be very interesting to see what kind of retaliation the Ducks may have up their sleeves, if any.
Shift up front
With the return of Kane to the Jets lineup, changes were inevitable up front. But instead of returning Kane in his regular spot on the second line, Maurice has opted to stay with Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik.
Scheifele appeared to get his offensive touch back last game, netting his first goal in 10 games along with two assists for this first three-point game of the season.
Instead, Kane will play alongside Adam Lowry and Matt Halischuk on the third line.
Maurice did say that he still likes the look of Kane with Scheifele and Frolik and wouldn’t hesitate to put them back together. If the Jets fall behind early, don’t be surprised if you see Kane move into that line.
Best in the West
Despite being out their most dynamic player in forward Corey Perry, who is expected to miss another three weeks with a knee injury, the Ducks remain atop the Western Conference standings with 45 points, four points up on Chicago who have two games in hand.
But even without one of their biggest stars, the Ducks continue to run the table, winning both games since losing Perry to extend their current win streak to six games. It certainly helps the Ducks have a superb supporting cast, full of veterans and young talent.
The play of forward Matt Beleskey has perhaps been the biggest surprise. The 26-year-old is tied for the team-lead in goals with 14, three more than his second highest total in one season and he’s done it in half the games. He scored 11 in his rookie year in 2008-09.
Hutch put to the test
The Jets will go with Michael Hutchinson between the pipes today. With that decision, coach Paul Maurice has stayed true to his commitment of running two hot goaltenders.
The consistent play of both Hutchinson and No. 1 goalie Ondrej Pavelec has created quite the debate in Winnipeg over who should get the lion’s share of the games moving forward.
Many believe Hutchinson’s play has earned him the starter’s job. The Jets backup has appeared in 10 games this season, posting a record of 6-1-2, and has posted league-highs in goals-against-average (1.67) and save percentage (.941).
A win over the top team in the west could very well make the case for Hutchinson to continue playing every second game, if not more.