It might not be time to panic quite yet, but the Winnipeg Jets are well aware the time has come for them to snap back to attention.
Heading into Monday’s home clash with the Edmonton Oilers — a two-game set in the battle for second place in the North Division — the Jets are in amid their first three-game losing streak of the season. The task is simple for the Jets (27-17-3, 57 points), who are a point ahead of the Oilers (27-16-2, 56 points), but have played two more games.
“Don’t make it four,” Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey said. “We’re trying to look at it like playoff hockey right now.”
The Jets have not looked like a playoff squad over the past week. After returning from a successful five-game road swing, they opened a home-heavy portion of their schedule with a 3-0 loss to the Oilers and then dropped a pair to the Toronto Maple Leafs, including Saturday’s 4-1 affair they had opened the scoring 39 seconds into the game.
Being outscored 12-4 in three straight home losses and with a power-play attack that’s 0-for-9 lately is not how a team wants to be performing with nine games remaining in the regular season.
“The first part of the process is not coming to the rink down because you’ve lost three in a row,” coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s getting into that fight, getting to enjoy it. Getting the energy back up on the bench.
“I thought we had that in the third (Saturday). I kind of liked that. It’s a grinding thing for us right now. I’m glad we’re going through it right now.”
It appears likely that these teams will meet in the opening round of the playoffs, and the Oilers have won five of seven clashes with the Jets this season, all in regulation.
The Oilers are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday but are on a 9-3-2 run that has them in good position to vault the Jets. Edmonton has been able to enjoy plenty of rest and practice time, with only three games in 15 days leading up to this two-game series.
“You just got to embrace it and take it for what it is and try to get some rest. Mentally rejuvenate because we’ve got a lot of hockey coming up,” defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “We’re probably pretty fortunate, there are a lot of teams that have been playing a lot of hockey and they’re going to continue to play right into playoffs.
“It’s nice we got a little break. It sets us up nicely for the next 11 games here. Then we should be ready to go.”
While the rest and recovery will help some of the Oilers, they will be without forward Zack Kassian for the foreseeable future after he limped off the ice early in the loss to Montreal favoring his left leg.
“We’ll call it week-to-week right now,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s still getting some tests done, but it looks like he’s going to be out for a while.”
The Oilers have summoned forward Ryan McLeod, a point-per-game player in the minors, and the 2018 second-round draft choice may make his NHL debut. Even so, the Oilers are looking for Kassian to return for playoffs and provide his physical play.
“He’s a player that’s built for playoff-style games and we’re certainly going to miss him,” Tippett said. “Hopefully, he can heal up quick and we’ll see where it gets to in the next few weeks.”
–Field Level Media