5 things to watch for as Jets prepare for Pens

Winnipeg will look to keep their playoff hopes alive when they welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to the MTS Centre. Jeff Hamilton has five things to keep in mind heading into tonight's match.
Pittsburgh Penguins star forward Sidney Crosby talks to reporters after practice at the MTS Centre about what he expects from the Jets, and Tuesday 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. 1:09

The Winnipeg Jets escaped their third straight loss Tuesday, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in a shootout at Arena.

The win came just a day after the Jets' (34-33-10) disastrous breakdown Monday in which they fumbled a 4-0 lead to the Anaheim Ducks to lose 5-4 in overtime, marking the largest comeback in Ducks history. 

Winnipeg will look to keep their playoff hopes alive Thursday night when they welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to the MTS Centre.

The Penguins (48-23-5) are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday, putting an end to their two-game win streak that included victories over Chicago and Columbus on the weekend.

The Jets will be the first stop of a three-game road trip for the Pens, who will move on to play the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche to close out the week. 

With that, here are five things to keep in mind heading into tonight's game:

Season rematch

It's the second, and final, match between the Jets and Penguins this season. Pittsburgh edged out the Jets 6-5 in the first meeting back on Jan. 5.  

Matt Niskanen's goal 12:38 into the third period put the Pens on top for good, extending the Jets' losing streak at the time to three games. 

The Jets would lose the next two, which resulted in firing then-head coach Claude Noel.

Pittsburgh has been no easy task for the Jets since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. The Jets are 2-6-0 in eight games since the move. 

Is No.9 due for a night?

It's been a difficult season for Jets forward Evander Kane. The 22-year-old has just one goal in his last six games, and two in his last 20. 

He's projected to finish the year with his fewest points total in a season since his rookie campaign, totalling just 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points in 59 games. 

Part of the reason for Kane's low production this year have been due to injuries. He's missed 15 games this season, most of which were the result of an injured hand he sustained during a fight against Tampa Bay's Eric Brewer in early January. 

Right when it looked like Kane's season was nearing a turnaround — thanks to the chemistry he and centreman Mark Scheifele had created — it all came to a screeching halt when Scheifele was sidelined with a season-ending knee injury in the first week of March.

The Penguins could be what the doctor ordered for Kane. Kane has hit the score-sheet in each of the last four games against the Pens, collecting three goals and three assists through that stretch.

Top of the class

It will be the first chance this season for Jets fans to watch the league's biggest superstar in Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins captain arrives in Winnipeg with a 17-point cushion on the NHL scoring race. Crosby, 26, scored his 100th point Tuesday with his league-leading 64th assist in a loss to the Hurricanes.

He's currently fourth in goals with 36, behind only San Jose's Joe Pavelski (38), Anaheim's Corey Perry (39) and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who has a league-high 48. 

Crosby has been no stranger to the score-sheet when facing Winnipeg. He heads into this one having scored two goals and eight assists in 10 games versus the Jets.

On thin ice

The Jets narrowly escaped elimination from the playoffs with a win against Phoenix. 

Had they lost the game in regulation time, Winnipeg would have begun their march of irrelevance, statistically eliminated from the playoff race. 

That's not to say the Jets aren't still on thin ice. With five games left on the schedule, the Jets are no longer in control of their future. 

Even if they do win the rest of their games, it remains highly unlikely a post-season berth will be in the cards.

A loss tonight and that would be the official "nail in the coffin." But here's to holding on for one more day. 

Little making a big impact

Many wondered how Jets forward Bryan Little would perform after signing a five-year, $23.5-million extension in the off season. 

Prior to this year, Little, 26, had his best year statistically during the 2008-09 season in Atlanta where he played between NHL superstars, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa.

Fast forward to today and the native of Edmonton, Alta. has been one of the hottest Jets this year, smashing his previous season-high points total with 62 points this season, with five games still to be played.  

He's also been hot of late. With an assist in Tuesday's win, Little extended his current point streak to seven games (2g, 6a).

The streak matches the longest for Little in his career. In the 2011-12 season, he scored five goals and added four assists in a stretch that lasted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 14. 

About the Author

Jeff Hamilton

Winnipeg Jets

Jeff Hamilton is an award-winning journalist born and raised in Winnipeg. Jeff is a graduate of the Carleton University journalism program and has worked for CBC in Ottawa and Manitoba. This will be his second year covering his hometown team. Jeff is passionate about hockey, playing and has studied the game his entire life.


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