Preview: Wild at Jets

December 29, 2018

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Calgary Flames halted a losing streak with a visit to Bell MTS Place and now the Minnesota Wild will try to do the same.

The Wild visit the Winnipeg Jets having lost five consecutive games. They do have one point over that stretch, thanks to an overtime loss to Dallas heading into the Christmas break. They were one of the hottest teams out of the gate this season but have stumbled recently and now sit outside of the playoff picture.

The Jets, meanwhile, are the top team in the Western Conference but are coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday, their first win in four games. The Jets outshot the visitors 36-28, rattled two shots off the crossbar and were otherwise stoned by Calgary goalie David Rittich, who improved his record to 12-4-2.

Forwards Bryan Little and Patrik Laine were his highest-profile victims.

With both teams playing for the first time in five days and without a Boxing Day practice, it was a sloppy affair. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien epitomized the Jets frustration in the dying seconds when he gave Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, who was about to notch his third goal of the contest into an empty net, a two-hander to his left arm. He was fined $2,500 by the NHL on Friday, the maximum allowed by the league's collective bargaining agreement for such infractions.

The Jets loss emboldened the team's critics who say they aren't as good as their record suggests because they've had a softer schedule than many of their Central Division foes.

The Jets, who boast one of the league's top power plays, were not only 0-for-2 with the man advantage on Thursday but they also gave up a short-handed goal to center Mark Jankowski late in the third period.

"You've got to execute and if you don't they're going to get their chances," Jets head coach Paul Maurice told The Winnipeg Free Press. "But you wouldn't change your power play to defend against their (penalty kill)."

Minnesota's prospects for the foreseeable future took a significant hit over the holidays when it was announced that Matt Dumba, its best defenseman, will be out for the next three months after having surgery to repair a ruptured pectoral muscle.

The Wild are going to need stand-out performances from goalie Devan Dubnyk if they're going to keep their post-season hopes alive. He allowed three goals on 10 shots in a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Thursday and was replaced by backup Alex Stalock in the second period.

"We have a lot of Grade-A chances," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said in a post-game scrum. "And we're not putting them in and we're not getting the save when we need to get the save. It's not a good combination."

It's expected the Jets will start Connor Hellebuyck in net on Saturday afternoon despite the fact he took a knee to the head from the Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin in the second period on Thursday. The collision, which looked to be avoidable from replays, knocked off his mask and shook him up momentarily. He did not have to leave the ice to be examined by a concussion specialist.


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