Record: 52 – 20 – 10
WASHINGTON — The NHL's top two goal scorers go head-to-head tonight as the Winnipeg Jets continue a season-long road trip against Washington Capitals.
Patrik Laine and Alexander Ovechkin are both at 40 goals for the season and will be sharing the spotlight at Capital One Arena. Ovechkin has a chance to make history, needing just two goals to hit 600 for his career.
"We’re real pleased our young guy’s got 40. And that’s a good man to be chasing and competing with. We’d clearly like our guy to have a better night than their guy. That’s true most nights. We’ll see how it plays out," coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate.
The Jets (41-18-9) are comfortably in second place in the Central Division, seven points behind Nashville and six points ahead of Minnesota. Washington (38-23-7) is also in second place in the Metropolitan Division, but in a much tighter race. The Caps are one point behind Pittsburgh and two points ahead of Philadelphia.
Winnipeg is 3-1-0 through the first four games of this eastern swing and will go with the same lineup that fell 2-1 in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon. Connor Hellebuyck gets the start in net, while Mark Scheifele, Toby Enstrom, Dmitry Kulikov and Steve Mason all remain out after getting hurt earlier in the trip.
Mason was sent home to Winnipeg and had his knee scoped Sunday, with an expected recovery time of two to three weeks, Maurice said. Kulikov has also flown back for further evaluation on an upper-body injury suffered last Thursday in New Jersey.
Both Scheifele and Enstrom are considered day-to-day but won't play tonight or tomorrow in Nashville in the last game of the trip, Maurice said.
Injured forward Shawn Matthias has recovered from his injury and will essentially be a healthy scratch, joining Marko Dano in the press box. And Jacob Trouba and Adam Lowry have both shed their non-contact jerseys and were full participants in this morning's skate.
Trouba could return as early as Thursday's game at Bell MTS Place against Chicago, while Lowry should be a few days after him, Maurice said.
Laine was named the NHL's First Star of the Week this morning after scoring five goals over his last three games. He said there's no additional pressure going up against Ovechkin, his longtime idol.
"We just feel pressure about our team stuff. That's the only thing we're worried about. We've got to get the two points, and that's the only thing we care about," Laine said following the morning skate.
"It's pretty awesome just to be in this position to race for the goal-scoring title as a 19-year-old. It's pretty unreal. But the work is not done yet. There's still a lot of games to go and hopefully we can play good hockey, including myself."
Laine said he's thrilled to see Ovechkin closing in on the 600-goal milestone — with one caveat.
"Hopefully he's not getting the two goals tonight. But 600 goals in under 1,000 games, it's pretty unreal. Hopefully he's getting it maybe the next game but not tonight," he said.
PROJECTED JETS LINEUP:
SCRATCHES: Scheifele (injured), Lowry (injured), Matthias (healthy), Dano (healthy), Trouba (injured), Enstrom (injured), Kulikov (injured), Mason (injured)
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.