The Winnipeg Jets recorded their fourth three-game winning streak of the season with a victory over the Chicago Blackhawks before falling short in each of their last two outings.
The Jets aim to get back on track Sunday when they face off against the Blackhawks in the fifth contest of their season-high-tying six-game homestand.
Captain Blake Wheeler scored to ignite a four-goal third period in Winnipeg’s 5-2 victory over Chicago last Sunday. Wheeler added a goal and assist five nights later, although the Jets dropped their second straight decision with a 3-2 setback to San Jose.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice told reporters Saturday that he is toying with the idea of moving Wheeler from center to his more traditional wing position. The 33-year-old shuffled to center on Nov. 8 in the wake of the injury to Bryan Little, whose season came to an end with a perforated eardrum.
“There’s a certain energy burned for him at center ice,” Maurice said of Wheeler. “You spend more (energy) especially with the style of game that he plays. Your wings get in on the forecheck especially if you change sides. Wings are far more important on the forecheck.
“At center, you’ve got to be patient in the defensive zone bringing the puck up the ice, so you’re slowing your game down a little bit so you’re getting your exit and into the entrance. So you miss that size on the walls.” (Wheeler is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds.)
Kyle Connor scored a highlight-reel goal on Friday to boost his team-leading total to 29 tallies. The 23-year-old has nine points (four goals, five assists) in the past five games overall and four (two goals, two assists) in four games against Chicago this season.
Patrik Laine erupted for nine goals in nine games before being held off the scoresheet in consecutive contests.
Laine told reporters Saturday that he thinks his team is pressing to create opportunities on offense.
“I think we’re just skating with the mentality that we’ve got to make plays. Like (Friday) night, I think we would just turn the puck over too many times,” the 21-year-old Laine said. “We should just get it deep and play in their end. But now we’re trying to make plays at the blueline and in the neutral zone, and that’s not the way we need to play.”
While Winnipeg sits three points out of the final two wild-card spots in the Western Conference, Chicago received a much-needed spark on Saturday as it snapped a five-game skid with an 8-4 victory at Calgary. The season-high goal total matched the sum total of the Blackhawks’ previous five contests.
Patrick Kane collected a goal and two assists to give him 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in his last 18 games. The former Hart Trophy recipient has recorded six points (one goal, five assists) versus the Jets, highlighted by his four-point effort (one goal, three assists) in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win at Winnipeg on Dec. 19.
Captain Jonathan Toews matched Kane with a three-point performance on Saturday. The 31-year-old is starting to heat up, with five points (two goals, three assists) in his last four games after being held off the scoresheet in each of his previous four.
“It’s nice to see all four lines get on the offense tonight. I think that helps everyone’s confidence,” Toews said. “So we’ll stick with playing the right way, doing the things that we know we have to do and playing with energy.”
–Field Level Media