August 30, 2015

Record: 43 – 26 – 13

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Winnipeg Jets

Pens beat Jets 4-1


Game Preview:

Whichever it is, unexpected or overdue, Blake Wheeler’s game is mattering to the Winnipeg Jets.

The speedy right-winger had an impact night Thursday, collected two goals and an assist to help put a dagger in the Montreal Canadiens.

Tonight, the Jets are hoping for more of the same when the Pittsburgh Penguins are at the MTS Centre for a 7:30 p.m. start (TSN Jets, TSN 1290).

“He really skated,” Jets coach Claude Noel said of Wheeler. “When he skates like this, he has the puck way more. He has patience on the puck, he’s evasive.

“He was really dangerous. That line’s had to make some adjustments without (Bryan) Little and I think (Alex) Burmistrov’s been good and solid. When Blake skates and has the puck, he’s a real factor.

“You watch him, he’s a hard guy to stop. He’s got some size to him. I’ve liked him because he’s got more bite to his game. That’s something he’s wanted to do. What can I say? You really notice him in games like this when he skates like this. He’s a hard guy to handle.”

With just two assists in the first eight games, and not a goal until Game 19 of the season, Wheeler had more than his share of early troubles.

Which makes his recent production, 16 points in the last 16 games starting with his first goal, and a total of five goals and 24 points on the season, more than pleasing to his teammates.

“It’s nice to see things finally going in for him,” captain Andrew Ladd said. “For him, when he’s skating he’s so tough to handle. He’s such a big body and he’s one of those guys who can beat guys with his speed. That was kind of the turning point for him. Obviously he’s been putting up a lot of assists and just hasn’t been able to find the net before.

“Right now I think he’s skating a lot better. Noticeably. It seems like he’s found another gear. To see him, he takes the puck end to end sometimes and they can’t handle him. He’s got such a long reach with that speed, it’s tough to handle.”

The Jets will be without Little again tonight against the 19-11-4 Penguins, the last game before a short Christmas break.

“We’re really gaining some confidence at home and we really enjoy being in the race and at that line,” Noel said, his team tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference as of this morning. “It’ll be our third game in four nights so we’re going to have to take short shifts and play smart. Pittsburgh will be rested, ready to go. (The Pens haven’t played since Tuesday at home.)

“It’ll be a real mental test for us.”


Updated on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 8:07 PM CST: Adds first goal

8:17 PM: Adds first period summary

8:51 PM: Adds Jets goal

10:15 PM: Updates with game score

11:06 PM: Updates with quotes

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