Jets-Blue Jackets Preview

The Winnipeg Jets seem angry as they start a set of potentially

winnable back-to-back road games.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, however, are proving not to be

pushovers of late and have enjoyed success against Monday night’s

visitors.

The Jets have dropped their last six meetings with the Blue

Jackets, although it’s possible Evander Kane will make his

long-awaited return.

Winnipeg (14-15-5) is trying to avoid its first four-game slide

after Saturday’s 6-4 home defeat to Dallas. Blake Wheeler turned in

a second straight two-goal effort, but his comments afterward

demonstrated the mood of a Jets team that is in last place in the

Central Division.

”What I say doesn’t matter. It’s what you do out on the ice,”

Wheeler said. ”You can blow smoke as much as you want in the

media. We’ve been blowing smoke for three years, everyone,

myself.

”Everyone that’s stood in front of the microphone the last

three years, they’ve said the same (stuff). What do you want me to

say? That’s about it. I don’t know what else to say.”

It would help if Kane returns from a six-game absence due to a

lower-body injury, though he has just five points in his last 14

games. He may not return until Tuesday, when Winnipeg visits

league-worst Buffalo.

The Jets, who haven’t beaten Columbus (14-15-4) since a 5-2

victory Dec. 9, 2005, are finding life difficult in the powerful

Western Conference while the Blue Jackets may finally be getting

used to their move to the East.

Columbus is 8-5-1 in its last 14 games, falling 4-3 in overtime

to St. Louis on Saturday. Ryan Johansen has 10 points during an

eight-game point streak in which the Blue Jackets are 5-2-1.

“They’re playing harder and more disciplined hockey,” coach Todd

Richards said. “Systematic and structure are words that we use a

lot. It might come across as confidence but when you’re disciplined

and you do your job and you trust that your teammate’s doing his

job, I think it looks a lot better on the ice.”

Richards lost for the first time 37 games when Columbus led

after two periods Saturday. Johansen, Artem Anisimov and Fedor

Tyutin all scored first-period goals.

”We had opportunities and that might be the most disappointing

thing,” he said. “I think we played hard for 60 plus minutes and

it wasn’t good enough.”

Mike McKenna made his Columbus debut in goal with Curtis

McElhinney out due to a lower-body injury. McElhinney could return

– he’s currently the starter with reigning Vezina Trophy winner

Sergei Bobrovsky on injured reserve with a groin strain.

Both Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya saw action in goal Saturday

for the Jets, and coach Claude Noel has not said how he will employ

them in this back-to-back set.

Winnipeg will be without forward Anthony Peluso, who will serve

the first of his three-game suspension for boarding Stars

defenseman Alex Goligoski on Saturday.

In addition, forward Matt Halischuk is out indefinitely after

surgery to repair a fractured forearm suffered in that game.