The downtrodden Detroit Red Wings face the Jets in a home-and-home series that kicks off tonight in Winnipeg and finishes Thursday in Motown.
So how likely is a blowout doubleheader?
Detroit, currently last in the NHL and 21 points behind Winnipeg in the overall standings, is on pace for a 45-point season that would be the franchise’s worst since a 40-point output in 1985-86.
The Wings are mired in an 11-game losing streak and have a lengthy list of injured players, including top goal scorer Anthony Mantha and their most accomplished defenceman, Danny DeKeyser.
The Jets, meanwhile, are clipping along in third in the Central Division and are a surprise playoff contender to many.
The Red Wings’ only consolation could be they are contending for a high lottery pick in the 2020 draft, which should leave general manager Steve Yzerman plenty of time to make an educated choice between Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield at No. 1 if he were to scoop up the top pick.
The Jets aren’t buying into any of the free-spot-on-the-bingo-card chatter.
"We can’t," left-winger Mathieu Perreault said following a Monday morning practice at Bell MTS Iceplex. "We’ve lost twice to L.A. (Kings) and they’re sitting last in our conference. It’s a tough league to win games, so we’ve gotta come out, prepare. We don’t really know what to expect. We haven’t played them and there’s a lot of new guys on their team...
"We’ve gotta play our way, play hard, not think about who we’re playing because sometimes it, like you say, could be a trap game," Perreault said. "We’ve gotta come out and play Jets hockey."
Another Winnipeg mainstay, left-winger Andrew Copp, said any team with a leader such as centre Dylan Larkin is a force to be reckoned with. Even so, Larkin is experiencing a drop-off in production with eight goals in 31 games after sniping 31 times in 76 games in 2018-19.
"They’re a team that works hard — we watched a little bit on video today," said Copp, who was a college teammate of Larkin’s at the University of Michigan. "Their last game was probably one of their best — against Pittsburgh. They were really good (in a 5-3 loss to the Penguins).
"Hard on pucks and the makeup of the team kinda revolves around Larkin and he’s a guy that loves the game, never quits. One of the hardest-working people I know, so it’s kinda the makeup of their team and it’s going to be a grind tomorrow for sure."
The Jets insisted their prep for the Red Wings, who haven’t won since Nov. 12, was as diligent as it would be for any other team.
"We have to make sure that we pay the exact same attention to any team in the league," said Jets head coach Maurice.
"We would have scratched and clawed to get to 18-10 because we have no arrogance in our game. (The Red Wings) had four days off going into their Pittsburgh game, changed a bunch of things, and they played a really good game.
"It got away from them and they made a goalie change but that was a competitive game. I’d argue they might have been better than Pittsburgh early in that game."
Blue-liner Anthony Bitetto believes the Jets are sufficiently wary of the threat posed by the Red Wings.
"If we keep that consistency, no matter who we play, it’s still a good team in the NHL that can win on any night," Bitetto said. "Sometimes the most dangerous teams are the desperate ones.
"They’re obviously a desperate team, and we’re going to go in with the same mindset and play our game."
Maurice sees danger lurking with every team he plots a game plan for.
"We’re aware always that when you play a team below you in the standings that the outside view is it’s a should-win game, but it doesn’t work like that in this league," Maurice said. "At the end of the year, after 82 (games), you’ll decide who was really good and who wasn’t, but on any night in the NHL, it’s a cliché only because it’s completely true — the team that works the hardest usually wins."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Monday, December 9, 2019 at 9:58 PM CST: Adds photo