Jets' drive to playoffs hits Nashville

Predators winger Patric Hornqvist moves in to put the puck in the goal after Jets goaltender Chris...

Predators winger Patric Hornqvist moves in to put the puck in the goal after Jets goaltender Chris Mason loses it in front of defenceman Paul Postma during a preseason game in Nashville in September. (REUTERS/M.J. Masotti Jr.)

Paul Friesen, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:31 PM ET

NASHVILLE - It’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

The Winnipeg Jets will try to put last night’s emotional, come-from-behind win in Washington behind them for yet another critical game in Nashville, tonight.

“As much as you get down when you don’t win games, you’ve got to be careful your emotional highs aren’t too high, either,” head coach Claude Noel said, this morning. “We’ve got enough of a test here today. For us the games are big.”

The Jets are four points behind the Capitals and Buffalo, who are tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres host Minnesota tonight, while Washington is idle.

The Jets (35-31-8) will face an ornery Predators (42-24-8) team that’s fifth in the Western Conference but 1-3-1 in its last five games.

Known for their high energy and physical play, the Preds have dubbed their home rink “Smashville.”

“They love to hit, and it gets pretty rowdy in there,” Winnipeg’s Jim Slater said. “They have the No. 1 power play in the league. That’s going to be key, to try and stay out of the box.”

The Jets are expected to go with the same lineup that beat Washington, 4-3, in overtime.

Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal, and expect the fourth line — Tim Stapleton, Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell — to see more ice time than it did, Friday, when it scored three goals in just over five minutes of five-on-five time, including Stapleton’s game-winner in OT.

“The back-to-back is potentially an issue,” Noel said. “But it’s going to be the shortening of shifts, the potential use of four lines. But that’s not always so easy. It depends on the whistles and if you can change on the fly. Managing our energy is going to be important.”

Defenceman Randy Jones says finding energy shouldn’t be a problem, given what’s at stake.

“Just like last night, it’s going to take a full team effort,” Jones said. “And whether it takes 65 minutes, so be it. We kept our hopes alive here with getting that win.”

Nashville coach Barry Trotz, a product of Dauphin, Man., says his team has gotten sloppy since the trade deadline, when it added several players.

But he expects the Jets to be a handful.

“I expect the same determined game they had last night,” Trotz said. “They’re playing desperate.”

Scratches for Nashville include two players with Manitoba connections: Churchill-born Jordin Tootoo and former Winnipegger Colin Wilson.


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