December 16, 2017

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Hellebuyck gets the start in 'homecoming' game against Wings

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) saves the puck during third period NHL hockey action against the Minnesota Wild, in Winnipeg, Monday, November 27, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan</p>

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) saves the puck during third period NHL hockey action against the Minnesota Wild, in Winnipeg, Monday, November 27, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan

DETROIT - Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck enjoys a bit of a homecoming when he starts tonight against the Detroit Red Wings.

The 24-year-old netminder hails from Commerce, Mich., about 55 kilometres from Detroit. He owns a 2-0-1 lifetime record against the Red Wings.

It's Hellebuyck's fifth-straight start as the streaking Jets (17-6-4) look to stay atop both the NHL's Central Division and Western Conference standings.

Winnipeg is also tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the most points (38) in the league. Tampa plays tonight, hosting the New York Islanders.

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DETROIT - Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck enjoys a bit of a homecoming when he starts tonight against the Detroit Red Wings.

The 24-year-old netminder hails from Commerce, Mich., about 55 kilometres from Detroit. He owns a 2-0-1 lifetime record against the Red Wings.

It's Hellebuyck's fifth-straight start as the streaking Jets (17-6-4) look to stay atop both the NHL's Central Division and Western Conference standings.

Winnipeg is also tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the most points (38) in the league. Tampa plays tonight, hosting the New York Islanders.

As Hellebuyck goes, so do the Jets. His start to the 2017-18 campaign has been nothing short of sensational, posting a 15-2-3 record with a 2.31 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He's coming off a 5-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night at Bell MTS Place.

Rookie left-winger Kyle Connor returns to the lineup after missing the clash with Ottawa because of a foot injury. He blocked a shot last Friday during the Jets win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

Connor, a Michigan native as well, registered the first two-goal game of his NHL career against Vegas and has nine tallies to go with eight assists. The product of Shelby Township rejoins one of the league's hottest duos, centre Mark Scheifele and right-winger Blake Wheeler.

Mathieu Perreault drops back to the fourth line with centre Matt Hendricks and right-winger Joel Armia, a trio that's been extremely effective for Winnipeg since Perreault's return from an injury Nov. 16.

The Wings (10-12-5) are winless (0-4-3) in their last seven games, and are still smarting from a 10-1 stomping by the host Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Veteran puckstopper Jimmy Howard is expected to be in the crease for Detroit.

Jets defenceman Tyler Myers said the Red Wings will be a hungry bunch.

"We know they're coming off a tough game so they'll be coming hard to bounce back. For us, a lot of our success has been focusing on how we need to play. The way we came out last game (against the Senators) and sustained that 60-minute effort, we wan to to try and do that again tonight," Myers said during a press conference.

The Jets are making their first-ever visit to the new home of the Wings, Little Caesars Arena, after the closure of iconic, riverfront Joe Louis Arena at the end of last season.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice was clearly impressed today with the nearly US$900 million downtown rink.

"Big change, I spent a lot of time in the old building. Really impressive, great slant to the bowl, so there's a lot that kind of looks reminiscent (to the Joe) except everything looks new and smells new," he told reporters.

The contest will also be special for Jets forward Andrew Copp, from Ann Arbour, and blue-liner Jacob Trouba, from Rochester, Mich.

Following the game, the Jets bolt for Florida — with a tilt against the Panthers set for Thursday night and a battle with Tampa Bay slated for Saturday.

The Jets are back home Monday, Dec. 11 to play the Vancouver Canucks.

NOTES: The Jets certainly enjoy their take-offs. The team scored twice in the first period on Sunday and leads the NHL with 36 first-period goals, four more than the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs.... Winnipeg's power play has ascended all the way to second in the league with a deadly accuracy rating of 27.4 per cent. The Jets are 12-for-31 in their last eight games.... Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler was named the NHL’s first star of the week Monday after scoring twice and chipping in eight assists in four games to spark the Jets to 3-0-1 record. He leads the NHL in assists with 28 and sits fourth in the league in points (35), just one ahead of his centre, Mark Scheifele.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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