The Winnipeg Jets are spending most of a two-week stretch at home and they look forward to putting the time there to good use.
The Jets will begin a back-to-back set Thursday night when they host a Columbus Blue Jackets club that could be without starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Winnipeg (13-13-2) has three days off before this game before facing Chicago on Friday. The Blackhawks' game is the only road one for the Jets between Dec. 7-20, and the club feels rested and ready.
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“I think our game is getting a lot stronger with that time, get a little practice time, sleep in the same bed for a few nights in a row, those things are sometimes overlooked but I think November was a grueling month for a lot of reasons so I think we're coming out on the other side of it,” said Blake Wheeler, who has a team-high 27 points.
Jets coach Paul Maurice figures to give Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson one start apiece in the next two, though he did not indicate who will get the nod Thursday. The rookie Hellebuyck is 3-0-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average in three starts while Hutchinson has posted a 3.59 GAA in losing his last four.
Maurice indicated that Hutchinson faced more quality chances in stopping 29 of 31 shots in Sunday's 3-1 defeat at Chicago than Hellebuyck did in his 37-save performance in Saturday's 2-1 overtime win over Washington.
“The last two games are played against really skilled teams,” Maurice said. “We actually gave up probably more in the Washington game than the Chicago game so the numbers don't say we play differently in front of the two.”
Columbus (11-16-2) may not have Bobrovsky, who has started a league-high 25 games. He exited Tuesday's 3-2 overtime defeat to Los Angeles in the third period with an undisclosed injury after stopping 33 of 34 shots.
Backup Curtis McElhinney fell to 0-4-1 after blowing a one-goal lead by allowing two goals on seven shots.
''I'll tell you what impact Bob had on the game,'' coach John Tortorella said. ''We don't have a chance. I mean we're not even close if it isn't for Bob. We're down four or five goals going into that third period if we don't have Bob.''
McElhinney hasn't won a start in regulation since Feb. 19. He is 2-9-1 with a 3.15 GAA in his next 12, winning a pair of shootouts.
The Blue Jackets were outshot 41-23, leaving Tortorella incensed.
“We should be embarrassed,” he told the club's official website. “I am totally embarrassed by the way we played.”
Scott Hartnell has two goals and two assists in his last two games for the Blue Jackets, who will try to avenge a 3-2 home loss to Winnipeg on Oct. 31. Wheeler and Bryan Little each had a goal and an assist in a three-goal first period in the Jets' third straight win in the series.
Wheeler will try to start a new streak after his six-game run with at least one point ended Sunday. He has five points in the three-game run over Columbus.