Maple Leafs-Jets Preview

Winnipeg was a difficult destination for visitors in the first

season of its second stint as an NHL city.

Lately, however, it’s been the Jets’ play on the road that has

kept them in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern


The Jets return to Manitoba looking to turn things around in

their own building and gain ground on one of the teams they’re

chasing Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With fans packing the house to see their new team, the Jets went

23-13-5 at the MTS Centre in 2011-12, but won only 14 of 41 road

games and missed the playoffs.

The crowds are still coming, but Winnipeg (12-11-2) is 1-5-0 in

its last six at home, totaling 10 goals and going 0 for 17 on the

power play.

The Jets are still two points out of eighth place in the East,

thanks in large part to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 road

contests, even with extensive travel as they play their final

season in the Southeast Division.

They weren’t at their best Sunday at New Jersey, falling behind

2-0 in the first 10:12, but Evander Kane ended a five-game scoring

drought with his 10th goal to help the Jets salvage a point in a

3-2 shootout loss in the finale of a four-game trip.

“We didn’t come out a little flat, we came out a lot flat,”

coach Claude Noel said. “So how it can happen is beyond me.”

Noel will be hoping to see a re-energized club Tuesday as the

Jets play at home for the first time since a 3-0 loss to Washington

on March 2, the only time they’ve been shut out this year.

Toronto (15-10-1) won 3-2 in Winnipeg on Feb. 7 after losing

both of its visits last season. The Maple Leafs trailed last month

with just over five minutes to play before Matt Frattin and Phil

Kessel scored in a 55-second span.

“It instilled confidence in our group that we could come back,”

coach Randy Carlyle said Monday. “We’re capable of coming back

being from a goal down in the opposition’s building. Some players

stepped up, and our group felt pretty good about ourselves.”

Kessel’s game-winner that night was his first goal of the year

in his 11th game, but he’s probably feeling much more confident

ahead of this visit. He’s scored three times in his last four games

while adding four assists.

His goal with 4:20 left in regulation earned the Maple Leafs a

point in Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Pittsburgh.

Toronto now looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak of

the season. Defense is the primary area for improvement considering

the Leafs have allowed four goals or more five times and yielded an

average of 34.3 shots in their last six games.

“I would say we’d like to tighten that area up, definitely,”

Carlyle said. “We’ve given too many quality chances.”

James Reimer has allowed eight goals in his last two starts, but

he’s faced 84 shots in those games and is still 6-0-1 in his last

seven outings. That stretch began Feb. 7 with the Manitoba native

stopping 23 of 25 shots for his first NHL win in his home


These teams meet again Saturday in Toronto to finish the season