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Sputtering Jets aim to locate offense vs. Canucks

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When the Winnipeg Jets dropped the first few games of their current skid, the general consensus was that it was better to experience a slump a few weeks before the start of the playoffs rather than during the postseason itself.

That skid isn’t over, however. The Jets look to get back on track Tuesday when they play their penultimate game of the regular season against the visiting Vancouver Canucks.

After a 3-1 loss to the Canucks on Monday, the Jets (28-23-3, 59 points) have lost seven straight home games and nine of 10 overall.

“When you go through a stretch like we’re going through right now, it’s very frustrating,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “I’m trying to be honest with you guys, but I don’t have a whole ton of great adjectives to use to describe our performance. I still think we have a good vibe in our room and have a lot to look forward to, but we are certainly having a hard time closing out the season.”

Winnipeg, which has won five of eight meetings against the Canucks (21-26-3, 45 points) this season, has a one-point lead on the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the North Division. The Jets have two more games to play, while the Canadiens have one contest remaining.

Winnipeg will close out the season at home Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Canadiens play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.

While there are myriad reasons for Winnipeg’s struggles, the lack of offense is the most glaring. The Jets have scored only 17 goals their last in 10 games, and the power play is in a 2-for-27 slump. That lack of production was on full display in Monday’s loss.

“The offensive part of our game looked right until the goalie stopped the puck,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “We’ve played some games where I don’t think we generated as much as we hoped to, but we got that part back, better traffic and better looks. There’s a starting point there. The first phase for guys who feel they should score goals is to get a chance.”

The Canucks, who have just two wins in their last nine outings, officially were eliminated from playoff contention despite emerging victorious on Monday.

“We did a lot of good things and found a way to win,” coach Travis Green said. “We knew the (playoff) odds were stacked against us and the team was mentally prepared for that, but once it’s official it stings a bit.”

Their fate should come as no surprise considering the plethora of players out due to injury, as well as the impact that a COVID-19 outbreak that hit nearly every player and coach.

The Canucks have six games remaining, including four against the Calgary Flames and one versus the Edmonton Oilers. Instead of pushing for a playoff berth, they’ll be playing out the string.

“A lot of the guys on the team feel the same way — we want to win,” said goaltender Thatcher Demko, who stopped 39 shots in Monday’s win.

“Regardless of the circumstances, it’s about pride for the organization and pride for teammates, coaches and staff. You’re playing for a lot more than what people may think. We’re going to try and win every time.”

–Field Level Media

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