NEW YORK – They are in a good place, both literally and figuratively.
And now the Winnipeg Jets have one more task to turn a good road trip into a great one before they exit The Big Apple.
Winners of three of four so far in their longest road trip of the season, the Jets face the New York Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden (6 p.m.; TSN/MSG/TSN 1290) with a chance to grab eight of a possible 10 points.
"It’s been a good trip for us so far," said defenceman Mark Stuart. "But it’s important to finish it off well. When we leave, we want to go back home with a good taste in our mouth. We’ve got a great opportunity tonight to make this into a great trip. Obviously, being 4-1 on this trip sounds a helluva lot better than 3-2.
"It’s hard to explain, sometimes, why or how you get into a rut. But maybe getting away and being together as a team has helped us. I said it before this trip, the road can be tough but if you get on a roll sometimes it can be good for you."
There’s also a bigger picture in play here: at 8-9-1 a win for the Jets would vault them past the Rangers, who are one point ahead at 8-7-2. With 17 points, the Jets are also just two points back of the Southeast Division lead, held by Carolina and Tampa.
"The wins are a big deal in terms of turning the confidence of the group around," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "Whenever you’re on the road and you have some success it’s a lot more fun. You go out to dinner and have a good time with the guys and create a little better atmosphere going to the rink. Winning cures a lot of things. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter if it’s at home or on the road, it’s just nice to be going in the right direction.
"It’s a lot more fun going to the rink, a lot more fun practising. When you’re having success and doing things the right way it becomes contagious and everyone wants to be a part of it. We have a little bit of that going right now, but we can’t take a deep breath and be satisfied with where we’re at. We’ve got to keep pushing and fighting to put ourselves in a playoff position."
Dustin Byfuglien, who left Sunday’s win over New Jersey in the third period with a lower-body injury, has practised the last two days and will play tonight against the Rangers. The one lineup change will see Chris Thorburn activated for Antti Miettinen, who took a shot to a sensitive area in New Jersey and is now listed as day-to-day.
The Rangers will likely be without power forward Rick Nash, who skated Tuesday at the team’s practice facility but has yet to be cleared for contact after suffering a suspected concussion. The Jets lost both games at Madison Square Garden last season and were shut out twice by scores of 3-0.