WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- It doesn't have the cache that it did a few years ago, but the battle of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 vs. Winnipeg Jets 2.0 figures to be fierce anyway.
As happy as Winnipeggers are that NHL hockey returned to their city in 2011, they are still bitter and upset about the circumstances that caused their beloved team to move south to the Arizona desert back in 1996 and be renamed the Phoenix Coyotes.
One renaming later -- replacing 'Phoenix' with 'Arizona' -- hasn't dulled the enthusiasm of Jets fans rooting against their former team. (An exception used to be made for Shane Doan, the last remaining member of Jets 1.0 on the Coyotes, who retired in the spring of 2017.)
The Jets are looking to build on their 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday as they start the back end of a six-game homestand on Saturday. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien made a triumphant return to the lineup in that game, scoring a goal and assisting on two more after missing a pair of contests in which his often terrifying physical presence was sorely missed.
While hardly terrorizing the league, the Jets are 4-2-1 and appear to be clicking on at least some cylinders - they scored three goals in the third period on Thursday - just a couple of games after some absolutely dreadful play, including blowing a 4-1 lead and losing to Edmonton on Tuesday. Some of the best news involves much-maligned center Bryan Little, who scored his second game-winning goal of the season - and week - against Vancouver and added an assist.
"After that last game we were pretty hungry in the third period," Little said in a post-game scrum. "It was our best period. Once we got that go-ahead goal it seemed like we turned it up even more. That's what you need. That's what we were looking to do."
At the other end of the ice, Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck finished with 26 saves.
The Coyotes come to town on the heels of an impressive 4-1 road victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, a win that improved their record to 2-4-0. Center Vinnie Hinostroza led the way with a pair of goals, his first two in his hometown since being traded this past summer.
He was quick to share the credit with left winger Lawson Crouse, who got the Coyotes on the board in the first period.
"That was our first 5-on-5 goal of the season, so 1/8Crouse 3/8 and 1/8center Clayton Keller 3/8 made a great play there and it was nice to see them score and it kind of got our team going," he said in a post-game scrum at his locker.
The Jets made one roster move, sending rookie winger Kristian Vesalainen down to the Manitoba Moose to get some much-needed playing time. The young Finn first round draft pick had one assist in five games playing primarily on the fourth line, but he'll play at the top of the line-up in two weekend games.