The Winnipeg Jets cap off their three-game swing through California with a game against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center Monday night.
The Jets (33-33-9) started the trip on a promising note, defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Thursday but were unable to replicate that magic Saturday, losing to the L.A. Kings 4-2.
The Ducks (48-18-4) just finished a three-game visit through western Canada Saturday with a convincing 5-1 win over the struggling Vancouver Canucks.
Anaheim currently sits atop the Pacific Division with a one-point edge on the Sharks, and with eight games remaining, have already clinched a berth in the post season.
With that, here are five things to keep an eye on in tonight's game.
Best of three
It's the third game between the Jets and Ducks this season, with each team earning a win on the road.
The Jets stunned Anaheim in their latest match on Jan. 21, beating the Ducks 3-2 and giving them their first regulation home loss of the season.
Ondrej Pavelec was the highlight in that game, stopping 40 of 42 shots aimed his way in arguably his best game of the year.
Evander Kane notched a short-handed goal 15:43 in the second period to earn the Jets the win.
Who's in net?
Speaking of Pavelec, goaltending has been a hot button issue amongst Jets fans for the better part of the season.
It was taken to yet another level following Saturday's loss to the Kings after Pavelec, who returned to action after missing six games with a lower-body injury, was pulled after the first period for allowing three goals on 16 shots.
A saving grace used to be the steady play of backup Al Montoya, but even he has started to slip in his play and is now out with a lower-body injury.
Many eyes will be on Pavelec as searches for redemption against the Ducks with St. John's call up Michael Hutchinson backing him up.
"I didn't take him [out of the net] because I thought he was the weak chain in that game," said head coach Paul Maurice after the pre-game skate Monday. "I thought he was as good as everybody else was in the first period. If he had played five games going in to that one, I might have left him, but you're first game back I'm looking up [at the scoreboard] and there are three goals on 16 shots."
Pavelec has struggled this season, posting a 20-25-6 on the year with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
A last hurrah
It will be the last time Jets fan will be able to see their old favourite Jet play against their new favourite team. Ducks forward and former Winnipeg icon Teemu Selanne is set to retire at the end of this season.
"Obviously it always feels nice," said Selanne, noting he had thought about the game for the past few days. "It's always special, and I'll definitely enjoy it."
Even though Selanne understands what's at stake this season -- his team is a favourite to win the Stanley Cup -- he admitted that he'll take a moment in Monday’s game to let his mind wander towards old memories of donning a Jets jersey.
"When you know it's going to be the last time, you see everything differently," he said. "You try to take everything in and enjoy."
Despite playing the role of opposition, the Finnish Flash still roots for the Jets to one day experience the special playoffs atmosphere in a city who loves their hockey.
"You just need that white out again, in the playoffs," said Selanne. "I haven't seen anything like that before."
On the man advantage
It’s been one of the most inconsistent pieces of the Jets offence this season, but the power play has started to click of late. Winnipeg contributed two goals on the man advantage in their win over the Sharks and finished one-for-three in the loss to the Kings. The Jets have now collected power play goals in five of the last seven games.
“We’ve changed some things and it’s movement,” noted Maurice of the improvement. “What you’re starting to see on the power play may be coming from the work we’re doing in the offensive zone: the movement, the idea of moving your feet and more motion on our power play.”
Despite trending in the right direction over the past week, the Jets remain close to the bottom of the NHL statistically, ranked 24th with an efficiency rate of 15.6 per cent, ahead of Calgary (15.3) L.A. (15.2), Vancouver (15.0), Buffalo (13.8), Carolina (13.8) and Florida (10.0).
Playing for pride and positioning
With only seven games left on the schedule, and the Jets all but out of the playoff picture, there are still a few reasons for the Jets to perform. The first: pride. The second is something more prominently on the minds of the players deeper in the depth chart, to prove they belong on the team.
One of those players is winger Matt Halischuk, who recently got promoted to the third line in favour of Devin Setoguchi, who has been scratched in back-to-back games.
“We’re still taking it game by game here,” said Halischuk. “There’s a lot of pride in this dressing room to play hard every night. That’s the kind of attitude we want to have.”
There are 10 Jets players that are up for contract next season, four of which are unrestricted free agents including Setoguchi, Olli Jokinen, Adam Pardy and Chris Thorburn.