Central-leading Jets hit road: First stop, Columbus
After a rough February, the Winnipeg Jets got March off to a strong start.
Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets need to rebound from a disappointing opening to the new month.
Back atop the Central Division, the Jets will attempt to win consecutive games for the first time in almost three weeks when they visit the Blue Jackets on Sunday night.
Winnipeg went 4-6-2 in February and entered March having lost two straight. However, they opened this month in exhilarating fashion with a 5-3 comeback victory over visiting Nashville on Friday.
Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and newcomer Kevin Hayes each had a goal with an assist, and Laurent Brossoit made 35 saves in an emergency start to help the Jets overcome a 2-0 hole and leap-frog the Predators for a one-point lead in the division with three games in hand.
"It's March, time to have a little bit of fun," said Wheeler, who has posted seven of his team-leading 63 assists in the Jets' last five games.
"It's getting toward the end of the year, time to ramp up the enthusiasm a little bit. ... Having that state of mind to go out and try to enjoy what you're doing, bring that enthusiasm, bring some of that energy onto the ice. That stuff is contagious," Wheeler told the Jets' official website.
The Jets hope the fun continues to spread as they begin a four-game trip against Eastern Conference playoff contenders. Winnipeg last won two in a row Feb. 10 and 12.
"We're in that final stretch where we need to find out what type of team we're going to be going into the playoffs," said Hayes, who recorded his first points in the second game since Winnipeg acquired him from the New York Rangers.
The Jets will also find out if Connor Hellebuyck is available Sunday after the flu kept him out versus Nashville. Hellebuyck has a hefty 4.29 goals-against average while losing three of his last four starts, but he made 28 saves in Winnipeg's 4-3 comeback home win over Columbus on Jan. 31.
Scheifele, who tied his career-high of 32 goals with two in as many games, scored against the Blue Jackets, while defenseman Jacob Trouba added two assists in that contest.
Columbus went 8-5-0 in February, but began March with a 4-0 home loss to Edmonton on Saturday. It was an untimely, ugly setback for the Blue Jackets, who dropped to 2-2-0 to start their five-game homestand while fighting for a playoff spot in the East.
"It's below our standard, which can't happen this time of year," Columbus forward Nick Foligno said following the defeat.
"Learn from it quick. We have the chance to right the ship (Sunday), big opportunity for us. ... It's crucial that we bounce back."
The Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky, pulled after stopping just 15 of 19 shots through two periods Saturday, has allowed 11 goals in the last three games after posting back-to-back shutouts Feb. 22-23.
Though Columbus' defensive effort in front of Bobrovsky has been suspect of late, he could start this contest since backup Joonas Korpisalo has a 3.70 goals-against average while losing his last three starts.
Bobrovsky made 22 saves at Winnipeg in January.
Columbus' Artemi Panarin had a goal with an assist in that meeting.
Matt Duchene, who has three points in his five games with the Blue Jackets after being traded from the Ottawa Senators, has four goals with three assists in his last three versus Winnipeg.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 2, 2019