WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets are rested and the sound of their voices suggest they’ll be ready when the Dallas Stars make their only appearance of the season at MTS Centre on Wednesday.
Thanks to a four-game winning streak posted by the Washington Capitals, the Jets find themselves six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — though they hold a game in hand.
“The break has been good to us, I think it’s given us some life,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “I don’t have to spell it out to them or paint lines on the line or say ‘okay guys, this is what we have to do here.’ It’s a big game and I expect they’ll rise to the occasion.”
Puck drop is 7:35 p.m. at the downtown arena.
With 13 games left in the regular season, the challenge to get into the playoffs is a difficult one but the Jets aren’t about to give up hope.
“We still feel if we play well enough down the stretch ... that we still control our own destiny,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “As a team, that’s all you can ask. We’re going to have to win a bunch of games here.”
The Jets are looking to snap a two-game losing skid, while the Stars are one of the hottest teams in the NHL — winners of six in a row and 10-0-1 in their past 11 to move them to 39-26-5 and first in the Pacific Division with 83 points.
The Stars earned a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday but are 1-9-2 in the second game while playing on consecutive days.
“We know they’re good with the lead and we know where they are in the standings as well, they’re coming in just as desperate as we are for points,” said Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey. “It’ll be very important to not let them get a lead.”
One of the things to watch this evening is how Jets winger Eric Fehr fits in on a line with Jim Slater and Tanner Glass.
“I’m just hoping to continue what they’ve been doing,” said Fehr, who has been a healthy scratch in the past seven games and replaces Chris Thorburn on the GST line. “It’s great to play hockey again. I’m excited and obviously this is a big game for our team, so I’m going to try and help out anyway I can.”
Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who has been dealing with a lower-body issue stemming from Thursday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, skipped the morning skate but is expected to play against the Stars.
The Jets will be without defenceman Zach Bogosian (lower-body), but he skated on his own Wednesday morning and Noel said he was hopeful for Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals.
The Jets insist they won’t be caught looking ahead to Friday’s pivotal Southeast Division match-up with the Capitals.
“We’ve been doing it for so long, we’ve kind of gotten into the habit of not looking too far ahead,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “If we start circling Friday for the Washington game and we lay an egg tonight, then Friday’s game doesn’t mean that much.
“We realize that the game at hand is more important than the next game right now. If we take care of business today, then Friday’s game is a little more meaningful.”