Preview: Jets at Coyotes
The Winnipeg Jets enter Saturday’s regular-season finale at the Arizona Coyotes trying to shake a late stumble that has cost them first place in the Central Division. Losses in five of their past six games have dropped the Jets one point behind Nashville in the division race and into a tie with St. Louis for second place after blowing an early 2-0 advantage in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Colorado.
Still, the Jets felt much better about their effort than in several of their recent performances, as forward Patrik Laine hit the post on a power play late in the third period Thursday. “It’s a real frustrating way to end when you crack a post and you have two really good chances at the end to win it,” Jets coach Paul Maurice told reporters afterward. “But the compete was right.” Saturday’s task will not be easy against an Arizona team that was not eliminated from the playoff race until Colorado secured at least a point against the Winnipeg. “It’s a tough one to swallow, but you have to give the Avs credit,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet told the media after Thursday’s 4-1 win at Vegas - just Arizona’s third triumph in its past 10 games.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NHL Network, Sportsnet 360, City, Sportsnet West (Winnipeg), FS Arizona Plus
ABOUT THE JETS (46-30-5): Winnipeg is 2-5-1 in its past eight games, while being outshot 290-254 and outscored 29-19 in that span. Center Mark Scheifele scored his team-high 37th goal against Colorado, but Laine has just one goal in his past 18 games, forward Kyle Connor is scoreless in his past five contests and forward Blake Wheeler owns just two assists in his past nine outings. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves Thursday but dropped to 1-3-1 in his past five games.
ABOUT THE COYOTES (39-34-8): Arizona made a furious push for the final playoff spot, going 13-4-0 from Feb. 9 through March 14 before stumbling down the stretch. Forward Derek Stepan recorded his third multi-goal game of the season in Thursday’s victory, scoring twice to snap a seven-game goal drought, while center Clayton Keller ended a seven-game point drought with an assist. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who left Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles with an eye injury, stopped 37 of 38 shots in his return.
1. The Coyotes entered Friday leading the NHL on the penalty kill (85.3 percent), and have not allowed a power-play goal in 12 of their past 15 contests.
2. Winnipeg sits fifth in the NHL on the power play (24.6 percent), but has converted just two of 19 opportunities in the past eight games.
3. The Coyotes and Jets have split their two matchups this season with Arizona recording a 4-1 home victory on Feb. 24 as D Alex Goligoski collected two assists.
PREDICTION: Jets 3, Coyotes 2