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Struggling Jets seek a turnaround against Flames

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It’s not even an unlucky seven for the Winnipeg Jets. More like an ugly seven.

As the Jets head into Wednesday’s road clash with the Calgary Flames, they’re on a seven-game losing skid. That swoon has sent the Jets from being within three points of the North Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs on April 15 to trying to hang on to third spot in the division.

The Jets (27-21-3, 57 points) are tied with the hard-charging Montreal Canadiens with five games remaining and coming off a 2-1 road loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday — a defeat that came when the hosts scored the game-winning goal with 73 seconds left on the clock.

“That’s how it’s going for us right now,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “I think they only had a couple even-strength scoring chances all game, and we lose the game. It’s kind of hard to describe.”

The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s most likely both the Canadiens and Jets will make the playoffs — Toronto and the Edmonton Oilers have clinched berths — but the Jets are just as worried about turning around their play amid this skid.

There are myriad issues with Winnipeg right now, among them having scored only 10 goals in those seven defeats, which all have come in regulation time. However, finding something that will change their fortunes is the focus.

“We’ve lost seven in a row. That’s just a fact,” coach Paul Maurice said. “What we’re talking about here is not letting that become the story in the room and being able to keep your head composed and being able to come out and fight your way out of it. There are fans that love this team, and if you lose seven in a row, they’re not going to be very happy with that, and why would you? I can tell you that nobody here is happy with that.”

This is the ninth and final meeting this season between the Flames (22-25-3, 47 points) and Jets. Winnipeg has won five of the eight previous clashes.

The Flames must see this game as a chance to not only prolong Winnipeg’s pain but keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Calgary, which is coming off a 4-1 loss to the Oilers on Saturday, must run the table in its final six games and hope the Jets or Canadiens lose every game.

That said, the Flames are well aware their performance in Edmonton won’t do the job.

“We probably gave up 10 scoring chances in the first 10 minutes,” defenseman Chris Tanev said. “It probably should have been 5-0 or 6-0 if (goalie Jacob Markstrom) didn’t play so well. He gave us a chance to win, and obviously we didn’t get the job done. … We weren’t ready at the start, and it cost us.”

As much as coach Darryl Sutter will try to install some faith into his charges, the last half-dozen games will be about setting a standard going forward. For example, he warned his players about playing a smart game against the Oilers and instead watched them fall behind, in big part, because of a power-play goal after rookie defenseman Juuso Valimaki took a hooking penalty.

“You try to get through the first four or five minutes, just keep pace with them, but we took that penalty right up the guts,” Sutter said. “That’s a bad penalty, a hooking penalty right in the middle of the ice. You can’t take that penalty. You know they were going to come with a little more jump (after a Flames’ win Thursday) and you give them a power play early, they’re going to take advantage of it. And they did.”

–Field Level Media

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