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This article was published 20/11/2018 (909 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CALGARY — We’re going to learn a bit more about these Winnipeg Jets over the next couple games. While they’ve managed a 12-5-2 record to start the season, most of that success has come against teams in the bottom half of the standings.
Winnipeg has played five games against NHL squads currently in the top 12 of the league, going 1-3-1. The Jets lost to the No. 1-ranked Nashville Predators, dropped a pair of games to the No. 2-ranked Toronto Maple Leafs, fell in overtime to the No. 5-ranked Buffalo Sabres and defeated the No. 10-ranked Colorado Avalanche.
But over the next three days, the Jets will face the No. 11-ranked Calgary Flames, followed by the No. 7-ranked Minnesota Wild.
A good litmus test, to be sure.
"We like where our game’s at right now... We usually focus more on what we do more than whoever we’re playing, but we’ve got to be aware of the firepower they have over there. It should be a fun game," Jets winger Mathieu Perreault said Tuesday of facing a Calgary squad that has won two straight.
"They’re scoring a lot of goals, they’re playing well at home. I think they have a lot of different ways they can hurt you. They have some real active D and their power play seems to be clicking on a nightly basis. They have their usual guys that are kind of contributing and throughout their lineup, they have other guys chipping in," Jets centre Adam Lowry said following his team’s 45-minute practice.
The Jets are coming off one of their best offensive outings of the year, a 6-3 victory in Vancouver on Monday night to begin a four-game road trip.
"I think, even over the last few weeks, we’ve been playing a lot more direct, a lot quicker. We’ve been real direct with the puck, I think. When we do that, our forwards are so fast and so creative that we’re able to hurt teams off the rush. I think you were able to see that (Monday) night," Lowry said.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice is expecting more of a "grinder"-type game against Calgary tonight, rather than a high-octane track meet.
"Both teams are coming in feeling good, both teams have players that can defend and players that will play hard on the puck, even offensive players that will play hard on the puck," he said.
Jets sniper Patrik Laine finally broke through with his first two five-on-five goals of the season, followed by an empty-netter for his sixth career hat trick. He’s tied for the second-most hatties in NHL history by a player younger than 21. Wayne Gretzky owns the record with 12.
So, how much did Laine’s big game come from the fact he got some seasoning recently playing on a line with Lowry and Brandon Tanev?
"He lost his anchors, so he was able to get going," Lowry cracked.
The big factor seems to be the play of Kyle Connor, who set up all three of Laine’s goals Monday while chipping in one of his own. Connor has nine points over his past five games and hasn’t lost a step since being moved off the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. He’s now driving the second unit with Laine and Bryan Little, which combined for nine points against the Canucks.
"Kyle has been doing it all year, he’s been great for us. So has Bryan. It was nice to see Patty get some five-on-five chances and put them in. They’re three great players — we definitely expect them to be a dominant line for us and they expect that for themselves," Perreault said. "(Connor) is having success with whoever he’s playing with. He makes other guys around him better. He’s so good and holding on to pucks in the corners, he’s got that speed, that shot. He’s been unreal for us. Whoever is going to play with him is certainly going to have a good night."
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.