The Winnipeg Jets are seeking both critical points and some relief on home ice as they begin a pivotal six-game homestand on Saturday afternoon against the visiting Ottawa Senators.
The Jets enter Saturday’s action one point behind the Calgary Flames for a wild-card playoff slot, though without much margin for error in a tightly packed Western Conference. Winnipeg is one of five teams within eight points of Calgary.
Under these circumstances, Winnipeg would normally welcome six straight home games against teams that aren’t currently in playoff positions. However, a lack of success in home games is a prime reason why the Jets find themselves in such a battle to reach the postseason.
The Jets are 2-7-2 over their last 11 home dates and have an overall home record of 12-12-3 for the season. By comparison, the Jets posted a 25-12-4 record on home ice during the entire 2018-19 season.
Given these struggles at home, Winnipeg forward Andrew Copp admitted “we kind of felt like we had to get this one on the road” Thursday in the Jets’ 4-2 win over the Blues in St. Louis.
“We’ve got to right the ship a little bit at home here,” Copp said, describing the upcoming homestand as “six big ones.”
“It’s going to be really important for us to get a lot of those possible points,” he added.
The Senators haven’t been welcome guests in Winnipeg, as Ottawa has a 7-2-0 record in its last nine away games against the Jets.
Ottawa is hoping that form continues as the club tries to snap out of a major slump. The Senators are 2-7-7 over their last 16 games and are in the midst of a four-game (0-2-2) winless streak.
Thursday’s 4-1 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche saw the Senators go without a shot on net until the 18:41 minute mark of the first period. By that point, Ottawa was already behind after a Ron Hainsey turnover led to a goal from Colorado’s Valeri Nichushkin.
“We just couldn’t execute a breakout, couldn’t make any plays,” Hainsey told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, pointing to his giveaway as “a perfect example” of the Senators’ early problems.
“If I make a play, (Anthony Duclair) is wide open, and I just don’t get it to him. Instead of a rush for us, it ends up burning us,” Hainsey said.
Marcus Hogberg saved 30 of 34 shots in the losing effort and is likely to be back in the crease on Saturday.
Vladislav Namestnikov missed the Colorado game due to a lower-body injury suffered while blocking a shot during Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Namestnikov’s status is day-to-day and he could return to the lineup against Winnipeg.
The Jets could also be short a player Saturday due to a blocked shot, as defenseman Luca Sbisa (lower-body injury) left Thursday’s game in the second period and did not return.
Since the Jets also host the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit will likely split goaltending duties over the back-to-back games. Brossoit could be the favorite to start against Ottawa, considering the relatively brief turn-around time between Thursday evening’s game in St. Louis and Saturday’s matinee start.
Brossoit has an 0-4-0 record and .875 save percentage over his last seven outings, while regular starter Hellebuyck has been on a hot streak. Hellebuyck stopped 35 of 37 shots against the Blues, improving his save percentage to .947 over his last three games.
–Field Level Media