November 20, 2017

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Jets hoping Lady Luck among hordes of Winnipeg fans in Vegas tonight

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FRESS</p><p>A group of Jets fans gathered at Carnival Court on the Las Vegas strip, Thursday, November 9, 2017.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FRESS

A group of Jets fans gathered at Carnival Court on the Las Vegas strip, Thursday, November 9, 2017.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — They've crossed paths with fans on the street. Outside the practice rink. In hotel lobbies. And inside restaurants and shows. Now the Winnipeg Jets will get a chance to compete in front of what is expected to be the largest contingent of locals to ever follow them on the road.

A few thousand Manitobans are believed to have made the trip to Sin City this week and could be in the crowd when the Jets take on the Golden Knights for the first time at 9:30 tonight.

"I think the first time it happened to us was in Arizona, where I think we had more fans in the building than they did. I don't know if we're getting close to that, but it's great. You'll know by the time that national anthem is done how many people we have there. It will make for a great atmosphere tonight," Jets coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate at T-Mobile Arena.

Captain Blake Wheeler said the Jets are ready to get back to business following a few days of team bonding. They've been in Sin City since early Tuesday morning, after defeating Dallas 4-1 the previous night to kick off a three-game trip.

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada — They've crossed paths with fans on the street. Outside the practice rink. In hotel lobbies. And inside restaurants and shows. Now the Winnipeg Jets will get a chance to compete in front of what is expected to be the largest contingent of locals to ever follow them on the road.

A few thousand Manitobans are believed to have made the trip to Sin City this week and could be in the crowd when the Jets take on the Golden Knights for the first time at 9:30 tonight.

"I think the first time it happened to us was in Arizona, where I think we had more fans in the building than they did. I don't know if we're getting close to that, but it's great. You'll know by the time that national anthem is done how many people we have there. It will make for a great atmosphere tonight," Jets coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate at T-Mobile Arena.

Captain Blake Wheeler said the Jets are ready to get back to business following a few days of team bonding. They've been in Sin City since early Tuesday morning, after defeating Dallas 4-1 the previous night to kick off a three-game trip.

"I'm sure they'll be loud. I hear things can get a bit rowdy out on the Strip, so I'm sure our fans will have a good time before the game and it will be a good experience for them. We're excited to see how many people we have here," Wheeler said. "They're out and about, a lot of Jets hats, a lot of Jets shirts. Anytime you get support on the road it's always welcome."

What might have looked like an easy game at the start of the season against the expansion Golden Knights will likely be anything but. Vegas is off to a strong start at 9-5-1 and has been particularly strong on home ice, with just one loss in seven games.

"It's exciting. The last couple days we've run into a lot of Jets fans around the Strip. We're expecting quite a few of our fans here tonight and it'll be exciting for us. Hopefully we can get a win for them," said defenceman Tyler Myers.

Winnipeg comes in with plenty of momentum, as well. They are 8-3-3 on the year, including 5-0-3 in their past eight games and 8-1-3 in their past 12.

"We've had a good couple days of work here and we're excited to get back to things," said Myers. "For us we're just focused on what we have to do as a team, and a lot of that is what we've been doing the past few games here."

Connor Hellebuyck will make his sixth straight start in net. He has yet to lose in regulation this year, and is a sparkling 8-0-2. There are no lineup changes to the squad that won in Dallas Monday, meaning Brendan Lemieux, Marko Dano and Ben Chiarot will be the healthy scratches.

Winnipeg flies to Phoenix after the game and will take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night. Maurice left the door open for Hellebuyck to start back-to-back depending on how tonight goes, although it would seem likely Steve Mason will make his fifth start of the year.

"We're going to get into a real heavy set of games here, and we're going to need both guys to play," said Maurice. "We'll see how many shots, we'll see the work, all that kind of stuff. I've got a pretty good idea of what we need to get done here to be good for the next month in terms of getting both guys playing."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Read more by Mike McIntyre.

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