June 25, 2024

A tie shall secure a first place in the central for Winnipeg Jets

A month ago, a mid-March matchup between the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators probably wasn’t circled on many people’s calendars as a must-watch game.

Nashville had an up-and-down January and was fighting to stay in the playoff picture, while the Jets were fighting for top spot in the Central Division.

But since Feb. 1, things have changed dramatically for the Preds. Nashville has had the third-best record in the NHL going 11-2-2, including a stretch where they won eight straight.

They are now in the first wildcard spot with 78 points and have a seven-point cushion on the closest non-playoff team.

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“They’re scoring a lot more goals. They’re much more dangerous on the rush,” said Jets Head Coach Rick Bowness.

He credits the Predators coach, Andrew Brunette, for turning their play around.

“They hang onto the puck more. They try to create more. They’re still a big, physical team. But they’re better offensively now than they have been. They’ve got great goaltending every night, much like ourselves. So think he’s loosened them up a little bit and they can score. They’re dangerous.”

For the Jets, they’re trying for their fifth win in March, which would put them in a tie with the Dallas Stars for first place in the Central.

For the most part, Bowness has liked his team’s play this month, except the 5-0 loss to Vancouver on Saturday.

“If you go back, we played really well in Carolina, we played really well in Buffalo. We didn’t play great against Seattle, but we could have tied that game up. We had a great game in Seattle. So there’s been a lot better games than bad games. So if we have a bad game, we address it, we move on.”

The last two wins for the Jets have come via the shutout – a pair of 3-0 wins against Seattle and Washington.

Bowness said those results happen when the team sticks to its defensive structure.

Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry (17) watches Brenden Dillon's (not shown) shot beat Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, November 9, 2023. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

“That’s our bread and butter. We keep the puck out of our zone, we create offence with good team defence. We’re creating a lot, both in the Seattle game and the last game. We had a ton of chances. We’re always about minimizing the chances against.”

The Jets and Predators will get underway at 6:30 p.m. CT with Connor Hellebuyck starting in net for Winnipeg.

Red hot Predators roll into town as Jets try for top spot in Central

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