Capitals-Jets Preview

The Associated PressMarch 20, 2013

As the Winnipeg Jets continue to jockey for position atop the Southeast Division, the Washington Capitals have struggled to break free from the bottom portion of the group.

The Jets look for a season-high fourth straight victory at the MTS Centre on Thursday night in the first of two home games in as many nights against the Capitals.

Winnipeg (16-12-2) scored three times in the third period to rally to win 3-1 at home over Boston on Tuesday. The victory moved the Jets into first place in the Southeast, two points ahead of Carolina.

Though Winnipeg is in the midst of a 6-1-1 stretch and riding a wave of momentum after beating one of the NHL's top teams, coach Claude Noel knows his club must only look ahead.

"There (are) not easy games," Noel said. "Just because we beat Boston, and that's a very good team, doesn't mean that we're going to play Washington back-to-back and that will be a lesser game. It will be just as difficult as (Tuesday).

"Finding ways to win, it's such a fine line in the NHL between winning and losing. It's scary."

Teams hosting the same opponent in consecutive games has become somewhat common during the shortened 2013 season, and the Jets have played well at home of late.

Winnipeg has outscored Toronto, the New York Rangers and the Bruins 11-4 to win the three home games that followed a 3-0 loss there to Washington on March 2. It's the Jets' only home defeat in five contests since a four-game slide at the MTS Centre.

Washington (12-16-1) is nine points behind the Jets and 4-9-1 on the road, but it has shut out the hosts twice while winning two of three at Winnipeg. Braden Holtby stopped all 35 Jets shots earlier this month to help the Capitals even the season series after losing 4-2 at home to Winnipeg on Jan. 22.

The Capitals have the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference, and lost five of seven since an 8-3-0 stretch. Washington could not hold a 1-0 lead in Wednesday's 2-1 defeat at surging Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

"I thought our effort was better overall than it's been," Holtby said. "There were a lot of positives.

"Bottom line is we have to win games. It doesn't matter if we're the better team or the worst team (that day)."

Alex Ovechkin scored his third goal in four games. He has two assists against the Jets this season.

Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler, who had the tying goal and added an empty-netter Tuesday, has scored half of his team-leading 14 goals in the last seven contests. He had one and an assist at Washington in January.

Teammate Evander Kane snapped a three-game point drought with his 12th goal against the Bruins. He has nine and four assists in his last 12 against the Capitals.

The Jets are an anemic 4 for 49 (8.2 percent) on the power play in the last 21 games, but have killed 34 of 36 penalties in the last 13 contests.

Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec has a 1.33 goals-against average during Winnipeg's home win streak.

Washington's Mike Ribeiro has three goals and eight assists during a seven-game points streak against the Jets' franchise.