December 16, 2017

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Winnipeg Jets (18 – 9 – 5)

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Eric Comrie gets start tonight as Jets try to avoid back-to-back losses

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Winnipeg Jets haven't lost back-to-back games in regulation time since their 2017-18 season started with a thud exactly two months ago.

The team will try and avoid that like the plague tonight — and goalie Eric Comrie hopes to do his part in his second-ever NHL start — as the Jets face the Florida Panthers.

Game time at BB&T Centre is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Winnipeg (17-7-4), second in the Central Division and just a point behind the Nashville Predators, is looking to rebound from a 5-1 defeat Tuesday night inflicted by the Detroit Red Wings.

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PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Netminder Eric Comrie has had an exceptional start to the AHL season with the Manitoba Moose, posting an 8-4-1 record with a shutout, a 2.30 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. </p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Netminder Eric Comrie has had an exceptional start to the AHL season with the Manitoba Moose, posting an 8-4-1 record with a shutout, a 2.30 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Winnipeg Jets haven't lost back-to-back games in regulation time since their 2017-18 season started with a thud exactly two months ago.

The team will try and avoid that like the plague tonight — and goalie Eric Comrie hopes to do his part in his second-ever NHL start — as the Jets face the Florida Panthers.

Game time at BB&T Centre is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

Winnipeg (17-7-4), second in the Central Division and just a point behind the Nashville Predators, is looking to rebound from a 5-1 defeat Tuesday night inflicted by the Detroit Red Wings.

The Jets stumbled in just about all facets of the game. They started slowly and fell behind 2-0 after the first period, failed to defend sufficiently five-on-five while generating few scoring chances of their own, botched five of six power-play chances and settled for just average goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck.

Tonight, the visitors to southern Florida have a shot at redemption when they face the Panthers (10-13-4), who gained single points in their last two outings, but have only three victories in their last nine contests.

"We didn't like our game that much, so same thing, put it behind you," said Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba. "You've got a new one coming up, so have a short memory, go out there and keep doing the things that made us successful in the past."

Winnipeg started the 2017-18 campaign with consecutive losses to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 4 and the host Calgary Flames Oct. 7. The club's only other back-to-back losses were in overtime in late October in Pittsburgh and Columbus.

The Jets are 7-1-1 following defeats this season.

Trouba said they club's reaction after losses has been one of its strong points.

"The leadership's pretty good with that. There's a sense of urgency," he said. "You notice the last couple of years the good teams don't really go on those losing streaks. They'll drop one here or there, but then they go on more winning streaks than losing streaks. So you have a little bit of urgency after you lose a game and know that you have to bring a response."

Comrie, up with the club since Nov. 27 after Steve Mason suffered a concussion, gets the nod from coach Paul Maurice tonight.

The 22-year-old netminder from Edmonton has had an exceptional start to the AHL season with the Manitoba Moose, posting an 8-4-1 record with a shutout, a 2.30 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

Comrie said it's crucial he maintains the same mind frame as any other night he takes to the crease.

"I have to treat it the same way, I can't look at it any differently," he said. "I think if you try and ramp up, you get too anxious and too ramped and you start making mistakes instead of being calm and letting the game come to you."

Comrie had 35 saves in an unforgettable NHL debut in April as the Jets beat the Blue Jackets 5-4 in Columbus.

"I enjoyed it so much and really took in as much as I could from that game. It's a dream come true playing in the NHL and, for myself, I'm just trying to go out there and enjoy this game as well," he said.

Hellebuyck gets a night off after starting five straight and 10 of the club's last 12 contests.

Maurice said the decision to go with the rookie came down to a combination of Comrie's preparedness and ensuring Winnipeg's regular No.1 guy gets a bit of a break.

"(Comrie) came up playing well and now has had a little time with us, a little time on the ice to get used to the shooters at this level," he said. "And Connor (Hellebuyck) has played a few more games than we would have liked originally with Steve (Mason’s) injury. We have an awful lot of hockey coming up ahead and Steve may be back soon, but we still don’t know. So this is a good game for (Comrie) to get into."

James Reimer, who hails from Morweena northwest of Arborg, will start for the Panthers and should get plenty of work over the next few weeks.

Florida starter Roberto Luongo is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.

Head coach Bob Boughner, in his first season behind the Florida bench after serving as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks for two seasons, has an extremely high opinion of the Jets' defensive corps.

"I love their six. I worked with a group similar to that in San Jose last year. We had some big horses," he said. "As a coach, you don't have to worry too much about trying to match up when you have six guys like that. If you get caught, it's not a big deal. That's the luxury of having those kinds of guys.

"It doesn't mean that we can't put pressure on them, put pucks behind them and make them defend. That's the key for (tonight)."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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