Jets ride high-octane offense into matinee vs. Sabres (Jan 07, 2017)
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Winnipeg Jets have gotten off to an explosive start to the new year, and they’re looking to end a three-game road trip on a high note Saturday when they take on the Buffalo Sabres.
The two teams will meet in a matinee game at 1 p.m.
After ending 2016 with back-to-back losses, Winnipeg’s offense has been electric in 2017. The Jets (19-19-3) picked up a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday and a 4-1 victory over Florida one day later.
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“It feels really good. It’s what we wanted to do on this road trip and we’re off to a great start,” center Bryan Little told the team’s website. “We’re getting rewarded offensively for playing the right way. We’re not cheating for our chances, we’re playing a simple game and we’re taking advantage when we do get those chances.”
The Jets have benefited from balanced scoring across their top lines. Little had two assists in the 4-1 victory over the Panthers. Nikolaj Ehlers has eight goals in his last eight games, while rookie sensation Patrik Laine has continued his outstanding campaign with five points (two goals, three assists) in the two-game win streak.
“It’s been six games since we’ve been pretty close to the lineup that we thought we’d start the season with,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “In our last two, a lot of the little smaller pieces of chemistry, of cohesion have started coming together, little things like line changes, shift length, all of those details. And I haven’t moved the lines around at all for a while so now they’ve spent time with each other and we’d like to continue that if possible.”
Laine and Mark Scheifele are currently tied for the team lead in points with 36, while Ehlers is not far behind with 35 on the season. Connor Hellebuyck (.911 save percentage, 2.70 goals against average) will start for the fourth straight game.
The Sabres (14-15-9) are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. Despite having a one-goal lead on three separate occasions, the Sabres ultimately fell in overtime to Buffalo native Patrick Kane.
“It’s just tough,” said Sabres center Jack Eichel, who had one goal. “We get to these situations and we’re not able to put a stamp on the game. That’s why we find ourselves out of the playoffs and kind of far back. It’s disappointing.”
Buffalo has lost three of its last five games and seven of its last nine.
The Sabres did receive a boost from center Ryan O’Reilly against the Blackhawks. O’Reilly returned after missing four games following an appendectomy during the NHL’s holiday break. O’Reilly had two assists, including a pretty helper on the power play to set up Eichel.
“You see the play he makes last night, he adds a whole new dynamic,” Eichel said, according to the team’s website. “(He’s a) left shot on the other side, creative, makes a lot of good plays, he’s strong with a puck so he’s a huge piece for our power play.”