Winnipeg Jets forward Devin Setoguchi will carry a three-game points streak into tonight’s game at the MTS Centre against his former teammates, the San Jose Sharks.
Setoguchi, who had his most successful season as a pro when he scored 31 goals for the Sharks in 2008-09, has been playing some of his best hockey as a member of the Jets during the past week, notching two goals and two assists in the last three games.
"I just think we’re getting back to the little details of the game," Setoguchi said Sunday morning following his team’s pre-game skate at the MTS Centre. "For myself, I’m playing well in my own end and getting pucks deep. And the other guys I’m playing with are obviously helping out, with Olli (Jokinen) and (Evander Kane) coming back in."
The Setoguchi-Jokinen-Kane line accounted for two of Winnipeg’s goals Friday night in a 5-0 win over the Nashville Predators and Setoguchi now has nine points (4G, 5A) in 17 games this season and also owns the longest active points streak for the Jets.
Mired in a five-game scoring drought earlier this season, Setoguchi was a healthy scratch for a game but appears to have lately rounded into the offensive form the Jets were hoping to see when they acquired him last summer from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2014.
Setoguchi spent four seasons with the Sharks from 2007-11 and described a disciplined style of play from the Sharks, coupled with an exceptionally deep lineup, that will pose challenges for Winnipeg tonight.
"When you play these teams like San Jose or Anaheim or L.A., you need to make sure all four of your lines are going at any time. If you ever have a weak link, it’s tough. Good teams like this can take advantage of it. So we need to be sure we play our game our way.
"There can’t be any cheat in it or it could be a long night."
The Sharks are winless in their last four games, but still have the third-best record in the Western Conference and are especially deep at centre, where they boast three of the league’s best centremen in Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.
"It’s going to be a challenge for us — we’re not going to be matching up (lines)," said Jets head coach Claude Noel. "They’ve got potentially the best guys in the league as far as those three guys."
The Jets, however, have a pretty good centreman of their own in Bryan Little, who with two goals Friday night has now scored 10 goals this season on just 38 shots on goal — a 26.3 per cent shooting percentage that is second only to Alexander Steen’s 26.9 per cent scoring clip for the St. Louis Blues.
"Right now it seems like a lot of the stuff I’m putting on net is going in for me," Little said Sunday morning. "I’m getting a lot of bounces right now and I’m trying to shoot a bit more than I did last year and trying to get more pucks to the net...
"A lot of my shots are going in right now and it was kind of the opposite last year, when I was trying to pass more because my linemates were really hot. It’s just the way it goes, I guess."
One of those linemates — Jets captain Andrew Ladd — said his chronically inconsistent club needs to focus on their own play tonight and not become preoccupied with the talent San Jose brings to the ice.
"You’re obviously aware of the firepower they have," said Ladd. "But our Achilles heel has been more our play than the other team’s play. So we’ll concentrate on that and make sure we’re coming out with our best effort."
The Jets will go with the same lineup tonight they used to beat Nashville, including Ondrej Pavelec as their starting goaltender, as they attempt to win two games in a row for the first time since the first week of the season.
Pavelec recorded 41 saves Friday, the most stops he’s ever made while recording a shutout.
FLIGHTNOTES... Jets head coach Claude Noel had a couple funny lines during his press conference Sunday morning. Informed the Sharks have scored in the game’s first minute five times this season, Noel deadpanned: "I didn’t know that, but that’s great news." And then, in assessing the evolution of his team’s work in the faceoff circle this season, Noel offered up this gem: "We’re better than we were. In the beginning, it was like we had our sticks upside down."