Jets host Wings after getting an education
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Winnipeg Jets have played four playoff games in their second incarnation in the NHL but their all-out battle against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday just may have been the next-best thing in learning how to prepare for a lengthy postseason run.
Armed with trade deadline acquisitions center Paul Stastny and defenseman Joe Morrow, the Jets played a spirited, emotional and physical game against the Central Division leaders, ultimately losing 6-5 despite having a pair of two-goal leads.
On the positive side, sometimes you have to lose in order to learn how to win. And the Predators provided a perfect example of never-say-die hockey, in an unfriendly barn no less.
"There's no quit in them," veteran forward Matt Hendricks told The Winnipeg Free Press. "They feel like they can score with anybody in the league and that's kind of how it happened (Tuesday) night.
"It's understanding those moments in the game, trying to control the puck in their zone instead of allowing them to skate through the neutral zone with speed and create in our end. Those shifts after goals are huge in not letting them gain any momentum."
Indeed, twice the Jets scored and twice the Predators had replied before the PA announcer finished broadcasting the Jets goals.
The question is whether the Jets can keep up the intensity against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, a team that probably needs a 10-game winning streak to get back in the playoff conversation.
Detroit, which comes to town having won two of its past six games (2-3-1), is fifth in the Atlantic Division with 62 points, seven points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who hold down the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. There are three other teams ahead of Detroit trying to catch the Blue Jackets.
Things aren't going to get any easier as they play eighth of their next nine games on the road.
They are, however, preparing to welcome back defenseman Mike Green, who has missed the last seven games with an injury and who was widely expected to be traded prior to Monday's deadline because he's a pending unrestricted free agent.
The Red Wings lost 2-1 on Wednesday night to the St. Louis Blues, a team that had lost its previous seven games and indicated its lack of postseason aspirations by trading Stastny to Winnipeg.
Hope is not lost, however, in Detroit. Center Dylan Larkin told The Detroit Free Press he "loved" how his teammates competed against the Blues.
"If we play like that consistently for the rest of the season, I think we are going to be where we want to be at the end of the year," Larkin said.
The Jets will be without defenseman Toby Enstrom, who left practice Wednesday after blocking a shot. Goalie Steve Mason is getting closer to returning from a concussion and will suit up on the farm for the Manitoba Moose on the weekend.