Jets need to turn road woes around
Winnipeg pulls into Buffalo on 2-game losing streak
At this point last year, the Winnipeg Jets, then known as the Atlanta Thrashers, were in contention for the Southeast Division title before a rough stretch ruined their season.
If the Jets don't improve their play on the road, that scenario could repeat itself.
Winnipeg looks to end a two-game road losing streak when it meets the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night in western New York.
The then-Thrashers were three points out of first place Jan. 7, 2011, but that was the closest they would get for the remainder of the season. They went 3-11-5 over their next 19 games, including 1-6-2 on the road, and wound up finishing fourth in the Southeast, 27 points behind first-place Washington.
The Jets (19-16-5) currently are five points behind division-leading Florida but have lost the first two games of their four-game road trip, 7-3 to Montreal on Wednesday and 4-0 to Toronto the following night.
"They skated harder, we didn't have the puck enough," coach Claude Noel said after the loss to the Maple Leafs. "We didn't start with the puck enough and we chased them for half the game. We created a lot of our own issues."
Winnipeg dropped to 5-10-4 away from home, compared with a 14-6-1 mark on its own ice.
"Being on the road, we've got to find ways to start locking down," said captain Andrew Ladd, whose 13 goals are second on the team to Evander Kane's 18. "We've got to be quicker all over the ice."
The Jets blew four separate leads in their last visit to Buffalo on Nov. 8, eventually falling 6-5 in overtime when Thomas Vanek scored with 25 seconds remaining.
That defeat dropped the Winnipeg franchise to 0-2-2 in its last four road games against the Sabres, who have earned at least one point in seven of their last eight home games, going 4-1-3 at First Niagara Center in the past month.
Buffalo, though, has struggled overall of late due to its own road struggles. The Sabres (18-18-4) have dropped seven of their last nine, with six of those losses coming on the road including a 4-2 defeat Friday at Carolina.
Jason Pominville, who had a goal and two assists in the first meeting with Winnipeg, had a goal and an assist against the Hurricanes.
The Sabres put 33 shots on net, but only converted a pair of them.
"They're only really good opportunities if you bury them," Ruff said. "We work to get position offensively. It was good. Not converting isn't any good."
Ryan Miller made 31 saves, but he's allowed at least three goals in nine of his last 10 starts, going 3-5-1 with a 3.40 goals-against average in that span.
Miller, 12-2-5 with a 2.62 lifetime GAA lifetime versus the Winnipeg franchise, allowed five goals in the November win over the Jets. It's unclear if he or backup Jhonas Enroth will get the nod in this matchup.
Ondrej Pavelec likely will be in net for Winnipeg after receiving the night off Thursday. He faced 45 shots in the first meeting with the Sabres as he dropped to 0-2-2 with a 4.35 GAA in four career starts versus Buffalo.
Bryan Little scored twice for the Jets in the first meeting, but it's unclear if he'll play Saturday. He's missed the last eight games nursing a foot injury, though Noel said he could return at some point during the road trip.