The Winnipeg Jets have soared toward the top of the Western Conference standings thanks in part to the play of its four lines, but those combinations will be reshuffled entering Friday’s home contest against the New York Islanders. The Jets lost top-line center Mark Scheifele, second on the team with 38 points, to an upper-body injury in Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over Edmonton that will sideline him for six-to-eight weeks.
“We want to keep this thing afloat so that when Mark comes back, we’ll be even stronger for it,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler told reporters Thursday, as he slides to the middle of the top line. The Islanders knocked off Buffalo 3-2 in overtime Wednesday as center Mathew Barzal scored the game winner, his third consecutive game with a goal. Barzal has five goals in those three contests, including his first career hat trick in a 5-2 victory against the Jets last Saturday in Brooklyn. “We need to keep getting points, keep climbing the ladder,” Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak told the media after New York moved within three points of second place in the Metropolitan Division entering Thursday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, MSG Plus 2 (New York), TSN3 (Winnipeg)
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (20-13-4): Forward Josh Bailey extended his point streak to nine games with a game-tying goal upheld by video review with 1:09 left in regulation. Center John Tavares comes in on an eight-game point streak with three goals and eight assists in his past five contests. Halak made 38 saves in Saturday’s victory over the Jets and has won his last two starts.
ABOUT THE JETS (21-11-6): Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice moved forward Patrik Laine from the second line to the first line in Thursday’s practice, and shifted fourth-line forward Mathieu Perreault to the second line. Forward Joel Armia scored twice in Wednesday’s victory, while forward Nikolaj Ehlers extended his point streak to four games. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 22 saves in improving to 19-4-5 on the season.
1. Tavares and Bailey started Thursday tied for second in the league in points (48), while Bailey led the NHL in assists (37) and Tavares sat fourth in goals (21).
2. Wheeler, who played center at times earlier in his career, ranked third in the NHL in assists (33) entering Thursday.
3. New York started Thursday tied with Tampa Bay for the most goals in the NHL (131), seven ahead of the third-place Jets.
PREDICTION: Jets 5, Islanders 4