It’s Jets’ firepower up against Preds’ extinguisher in Nashville

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It's the Central's most explosive squad pitted against the division's defensive specialists.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/12/2017 (1876 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s the Central’s most explosive squad pitted against the division’s defensive specialists.

Something’s gotta give.

The Winnipeg Jets take on the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, the second meeting of the NHL season between the divisional rivals. Game time is 7 p.m. (TSN 3, TSN 1290).

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save during second period NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks, in Vancouver on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Winnipeg (19-10-5) has ripped more goals (112) than any other Central Division team thus far in the 2017-18 season and is the only club in the league with three players who have at least 15 goals prior to Monday night’s slate of games.

Second-year sniper Patrik Laine scored his team-leading 16th — and his NHL-best 10th power-play tally — while top-line centre Mark Scheifele’s nifty deflection was his 15th, as the Jets blanked the visiting St. Louis Blues 4-0 Sunday. Laine’s linemate, Nikolaj Ehlers, also has 15 goals.

The Predators, meanwhile, are a stingy bunch, giving up just 85 goals to this point, the fewest of any team in the division.

It’s been 154 minutes and 59 seconds since the squad’s Finnish-born goaltending tandem of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros allowed a puck to get past them. In the Preds’ last outing, Rinne stopped 32 shots for his third shutout of the season in a 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames. Two nights earlier, Saros stopped all 46 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Nashville (21-7-4), which also won 7-1 in Vancouver last week, is 6-0-1 this month, 11-1-2 in the past 14 games — the lone regulation loss coming against the Canucks Nov. 30 — and 16-2-2 over its previous 20 contests.

The Preds defeated the visiting Jets 5-3 Nov. 20.

•••

After 48 shots and nothing to show for them Saturday in St. Louis, the Jets finally had to reason to celebrate after Adam Lowry tapped in his fifth goal of the year past goalie Jake Allen at 4:32 of the second period Sunday to open the scoring against the Blues.

It was Winnipeg’s 63rd shot at the St. Louis net over nearly 85 minutes of play, a big chunk of them coming from the club’s No.1 line of left-winger Kyle Connor (nine shots), right-winger Blake Wheeler (nine shots) and centre Mark Scheifele (four shots).

But it was the hustling, hard-checking trio of Lowry and his wingers Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp that sparked the home side. Tanev beat two defenders to the puck behind the Blues net and slid it over to Copp before getting sandwiched, and Copp connected with Lowry who was left alone on the doorstep.

Head coach Paul Maurice said the line — which has 11 points in its last six contests — has been effective in a shutdown role and produces offensively at critical times.

“They’re important to us, especially at home — they’ve been great,” he said. “They’ve kept good players off the board and found also, every once in a while, a way to generate offence.”

Lamenting the line’s lack of production two weeks ago, Copp was more upbeat Sunday about the trio’s recent contribution.

“It was nice for our line to be rewarded. We feel like we’re trending in the right direction; we feel like we’ve had a ton of chances lately,” he said.

•••

Former Jets tough-guy Chris Thorburn had an emotional return to Winnipeg as a member of the Blues.

Pegged by coach Mike Yeo to start the game with linemates Paul Stastny and Scottie Upshall, Thorburn, the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise leader for most regular-season games played (709) admitted he was a bit of a wreck on the first shift.

“My legs were numb. I had goosebumps and every emotion that you could imagine,” he said after the game.

His former teammates had some shenanigans going during the warmup, shooting pucks at his ankles as he skated by, the 34-year-old right-winger said.

“I think they were trying to hurt me. They know how much of a threat I am,” said a laughing Thorburn, who has yet to score this season and has three assists in 21 games. “There were four in a row that caught me good. I just giggled. It was all in good fun.”

Thorburn, one-third of the popular GST (Tanner Glass and Jim Slater were his mates) during the team’s inaugural 2011-12 season in Winnipeg, was given a loud ovation when his six-year stint with the organization was recognized during a TV timeout.

“It was emotional, it meant a lot,” he said of the friendly welcome from fans. “It was a great moment, one that I won’t forget, just like my time here. A lot of good stuff happened to me here. My daughter being born here, a lot of ties, a lot of relationships and friendships.

“Winnipeg will be in my life and my family’s life for the rest of our lives. It’s a chapter that’s over, but at the same time it continues.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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