NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 16th (All times Eastern)
Winnipeg Jets (26-26-6) at Minnesota Wild (25-23-8), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The last time the Wild and Jets squared off, Minnesota was at the top of the NHL standings. Things have certainly changed since.
Minnesota hopes to avoid a sixth straight defeat and falling further back in the playoff race as it hosts the Winnipeg Jets this evening.
The Wild have gone 5-16-5 since posting seven straight victories from Nov. 28- Dec. 10, a burst that gave them the top overall record in the league. That winning streak came to an end with a 2-1 setback at Winnipeg on Dec. 13, starting a tailspin that has dropped Minnesota all the way down to 12th in the West and five points back of a playoff spot.
Scoring goals has been an issue for the Wild, who have been held to a pair of goals or less in all six games this month and 10 of their last 13. They have been outscored 10-4 over the first three contests of a four-game homestand and Tuesday's 2-1 defeat versus the Ducks gave them four straight regulation defeats at home for the first time in club history.
Dany Heatley's 19th goal of the season staked Minnesota to an early lead and leaves him one tally shy of his seventh straight 20-goal season, but Josh Harding was beaten twice in the third period. He ended with 23 saves.
"When you lose a game, it's tough to find any positive things," said Minnesota's Mikko Koivu. "Sometimes [effort] is not enough. Sometimes you just have to come up with goals."
Injuries have not helped the Wild's cause either. Cal Clutterbuck missed Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury and Kris Foucault made his NHL debut to become the 39th player to skate for the Wild this year. That is one off the team record of 40 set last year.
Winnipeg also finds itself outside of the playoff picture as back-to-back losses have the club six points behind the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
A struggling power play has hindered the Jets as they have just two goals over their last 24 chances on the man advantage spread out over their last 10 games. They failed to score on three power plays in Tuesday's 3-1 setback to the visiting Islanders.
Chris Thorburn scored with 2:10 left in the first period, but Ondrej Pavelec was bested twice on 24 shots faced.
"I thought the power play really demoralized us again. It really seems to be the story as of late," said Jets head coach Claude Noel.
"You can tell it doesn't give our team any life. It's got to the point where we have to make some drastic moves or change some things."
Those changes could begin tonight in Minnesota. Following this game, the Jets return home to begin an eight-game homestand that runs through March 5 and would love to have their power play clicking by then.
"This is going to be a tough hill to climb," Noel said. "To me this is the true test of character. We are going to see it."
The Jets franchise has won its past three against the Wild and the former Atlanta Thrashers snapped a three-game skid in Minnesota in their last trip there on Feb. 12, 2010.
02/16 10:46:16 ET