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.
Article continues below ...
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 in 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.