The Winnipeg Jets entered the All-Star break resembling a team that needed a break. They have emerged from the hiatus as a team starting to get on a roll.
The Jets attempt to get their season-high fourth straight victory Tuesday night when they host the New York Rangers.
Winnipeg lost its final four games before the break and six of its last seven games before the nine-day layoff. The skid reached five games with a 2-1 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 31 but since then the Jets are 4-0-1 in their last five games, matching their longest points streak of the season.
The Jets are heating up again as their top players are also making contributions.
Kyle Connor, who has a team-high 28 goals and whose 59 points are tied for best on the squad, has three and six assists in six games since the All-Star break. Mark Scheifele, who is tops on the team with 36 assists and tied with Connor with 59 points, has five helpers since the break while Patrik Laine, who has 24 goals and 53 points, has seven goals since the break.
The trio contributed to a successful weekend when the Jets posted consecutive 5-2 home wins over the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks.
Laine scored three power-play goals in Saturday’s win over Ottawa when Connor also had a goal and three assists. In Sunday’s win over Chicago, Connor scored twice to go along with an assist while Scheifele collected two assists to help the Jets overcome an early two-goal deficit.
“We finally have got it turned around a little bit now,” Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler said. “We’re believing in that game a little bit. It’s given us an opportunity to win every night and we’re getting those results.”
While Winnipeg’s surge has put it back into one of the wild-card spots, the Rangers head into a three-game trip well behind in the playoff race. But the Rangers are 4-2 since the break and 8-5 in their last 13 games since losing three straight Dec. 31-Jan. 4.
New York also is trying to get a season-high five games over .500. The Rangers are four games over for the ninth time after scoring three goals in the third period of Sunday’s 4-1 home win over the Los Angeles Kings.
“A streak has to start with one,” New York’s Chris Kreider said. “We’re cognizant of the standings and where we are. Obviously we need to go on a little run. We don’t necessarily talk about it a lot, but what has been said is that our fate is in our own hands.”
New York’s fate in the lead-up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline also lies in its performance on the road. The Rangers play five of seven games away from home before the deadline and eight of its next 10 on the road through Feb. 28.
The Rangers are also coming off the best performance of rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin’s brief career. He is 3-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage after making 42 saves Sunday.
“If you’re going to be great, you better know you’re great and he knows he’s great,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “And for good reason. He’s got a track record that’s pretty impressive at a high level.”
The Rangers are playing with three goalies on the roster since Shesterkin joined the team on Jan. 7. Alexandar Georgiev started Friday’s loss to Buffalo while Henrik Lundqvist started (and was eventually pulled) in a 5-3 loss to Dallas on Feb. 3, but according to Quinn, keeping goalies sharp is not the focus anymore.
–Field Level Media