Jets hope to rebound vs. NHL-leading Habs

( – The Winnipeg Jets look to rebound and keep hold of sole
possession of a playoff spot in Thursday night when they host the mighty
Montreal Canadiens.

The Jets had a five-game win streak halted with Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the
Vancouver Canucks. Blake Wheeler and Jiri Tlusty scored goals to give Winnipeg
a two-goal edge, but the next five tallies went to the Canucks. Two of those
were scored into an empty-net.

Drew Stafford had an assist to give him four goals and five helpers over a
seven-game point streak and Michael Hutchinson yielded three goals on 28 shots

“We played pretty well for 50 minutes,” said Hutchinson following his first
start since March 12. “It was fun to get back in there … not as fun sitting
on the bench.”

The loss has the Jets just two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the
second wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Kings have played one
fewer game and visit the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Netminder Ondrej Pavelec had started Monday night for the Jets, making 33
saves in a 4-1 win at Edmonton. He could get the call tonight having won his
past five starts and is 4-9-1 lifetime versus Montreal with a 2.89 goals
against average and .901 save percentage in 14 games.

Winnipeg begins a four-game homestand tonight likely without forward Bryan
Little and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien due to upper-body injuries. The duo
have missed the past nine games.

The Canadiens come in leading the NHL with 100 points, one up on a trio of
teams. They reached the century mark by earning a point in Tuesday’s 3-2
overtime setback to the Nashville Predators.

Skating on the power play after P.K. Subban was called for tripping, Nashville
worked the puck around the horn with Mike Ribeiro firing it from the right
side to the left where Filip Forsberg had a clear shot for the winner.

Brendan Gallagher scored for a third game in a row, giving him a career-high
22 tallies on the season and David Desharnais also lit the lamp as the Habs
had a three-game win streak snapped.

Despite their league-leading point total, the Canadiens are just one point
ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division. The
Bolts host the Predators tonight.

“We’ve got eight games left,” said Montreal forward Max Pacioretty. “We’re
just trying to get better every game and get into playoff mode before it

Carey Price made 28 saves in the loss and will get a rest tonight as backup
Dustin Tokarski is expected to get the start. Tokarski will make his third
start this month and first since stopping 41 shots in a win over Florida on
March 17. He has never faced the Jets.

Price made 29 saves in a 3-0 win at home over the Jets on Nov. 11. It was
Montreal’s seventh victory in eight games and 10th in the past 12 meetings
with Winnipeg.

Montreal has won four of its past five as the road team in this series.