The Winnipeg Jets have surged into contention for the top spot in both the Central Division and Western Conference on the heels of a 9-3-1 run. All four losses in that stretch have come away from home for the Jets, who will look to halt that trend when they continue a three-game road trip with a visit to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Winnipeg dropped out of the lead in the Central following Tuesday’s 5-1 loss at Detroit, but its special teams have been outstanding in the first three games this month. The Jets have converted 7 of 16 chances with the man advantage while killing off all 14 short-handed situations. The Panthers have dropped three in a row — all by one goal — and now must cope with the loss of starting netminder Roberto Luongo, who was injured in Monday’s shootout loss to the New York Islanders. Coach Bob Boughner on Wednesday said Luongo will be out for an “extended period of time. Whether that’s three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, (we’ll) see how his rehab goes.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN3 (Winnipeg), FSN Florida, NHL.TV
ABOUT THE JETS (17-7-4): Forward Patrik Laine, who finished second to Toronto’s Auston Matthews in the Calder Trophy voting last season, admitted he was struggling with his confidence after failing to hit the scoresheet in the final three games of November. A 36-goal scorer last season, Laine has quickly turned things around, scoring in each of his last three games to tie Mark Scheifele for the team lead with 14 goals. Laine’s tally Monday night made him the ninth player since 1987 to score 50 goals in his first 101 games.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (10-13-4): James Reimer saw ample experience playing time during 5 1/2 seasons in Toronto and made 39 starts in his first year with Florida in 2016-17, posting an 18-16-5 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He is 4-6-3 with a 3.67 GAA this season and has surrendered at least three goals in 10 of his 14 appearances. “All I ask of him, and he knows this, is to give us a chance to win,” Boughner said. “And if he gives us a chance to win, we’ll be in every game.”
1. Panthers C Aleksander Barkov has scored goals in four of the past five games.
2. Jets captain Blake Wheeler has one goal and seven assists during a three-game point streak.
3. Florida recalled G Harri Satteri from Springfield of the American Hockey League.
PREDICTION: Jets 4, Panthers 3