The Winnipeg Jets think December will be a key month for their season. If so, they have to like how it started.
The Jets host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night, trying to snap a four-game losing streak in the series.
Winnipeg (10-11-4) opened December with a 1-0 win over Phoenix on Thursday. Bryan Little scored in the first period and Ondrej Pavelec recorded 33 saves for his second shutout of the season.
"That was huge," Jets winger Blake Wheeler said. "We've kind of learned that the two biggest things when you have a lead in the third period are - one, make them come 200 feet at you and get the puck in deep and two, stay out of the penalty box. And when we do those two things you can see they didn't get many chances in the third period."
The Coyotes, who were making their first visit to Winnipeg since the franchise relocated from there in 1996, put six shots on goal in the final period after totaling 27 in the first two.
That could be a good sign considering the defense in front of Pavelec has struggled recently due to several injuries, with opponents putting 42 and 43 shots on goal in the previous two games - both losses. The Jets also allowed two power-play goals in 10 chances in those games, but showed more discipline Thursday, with Phoenix going 0 for 2.
Winnipeg hopes to build on the victory during a home-heavy stretch in its schedule this month. The Jets play nine of their next 10 on home ice, where they have won four of five.
"This is a month that we can really use this time to develop a lot of different things because come January, February, March, we need to really know exactly what we're doing, where we're going and how are we going to get there," coach Claude Noel told the Jets' official website.
After his shutout, Pavelec could start again Saturday. He's lost his last three starts against New Jersey, allowing three goals each time, but Noel thinks this could be the start of something.
"I think this was a really good stepping stone for him in (Thursday) night's game," Noel said.
While the franchise is 0-2-2 in its last four against the Devils, including a 3-2 overtime loss on the road Nov. 5, Winnipeg will try to hand New Jersey its season-high fourth straight loss. The Devils fell 4-2 at Minnesota on Friday following another tough start by the slumping Martin Brodeur.
While the Devils (12-11-1) outshot the Wild 31-16, Minnesota made its shots count, scoring three goals on its first four to send Brodeur to the bench.
It was the first time this season the future Hall of Famer has been pulled early without being injured, and it came after Brodeur gave up six goals in his previous start at Colorado on Wednesday.
"It's been two games now with a tough start," said Brodeur, who dropped to 5-7-0 with a 3.31 goals-against average. "I'm going to get right back at it to try and have a better performance, but it is what it is."
He'll get the night off Saturday as Johan Hedberg is expected to start. Hedberg is 6-4-1 with a 2.39 GAA as a starter, including a shutout in his last start Nov. 25 against the New York Islanders.
Hedberg was also outstanding against the Atlanta Thrashers, going 7-1-0 with a 2.23 GAA in eight starts.