Jets trying to return to first in finale vs. Coyotes

The Winnipeg Jets have lost five of their last six games (1-4-1) to relinquish possession of first place in the highly competitive Central Division.

The Jets (46-30-5, 97 points) look to leap back into first place in the final game of the season on Saturday, when they conclude their four-game road trip against the Arizona Coyotes (39-34-8, 86 points).

Winnipeg squandered an early two-goal advantage in Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado, a setback that dropped the club one point behind Nashville and even with St. Louis.

"We did all the right things throughout the game, which we were looking for," Jets forward Mark Scheifele said. "Obviously, we wanted the win, but you have to take positives out of it."

Scheifele added to his career-high total by scoring his team-leading 37th goal in the first period on Thursday, although it was just his second point in eight games.

Nikolaj Ehlers also scored in the first period to reach the 20-goal plateau.

"The result, it (stinks)," the 23-year-old Ehlers said. "We wanted the two points here 1/8on Thursday 3/8 and I think everyone who watched this game could see that. We really took a step from our last couple of games. We fought, we got some of our identity back, and that's what we need to keep working on now."

Captain Blake Wheeler is mired in an 11-game goal drought after erupting for eight in his previous seven contests. The 32-year-old, who has just two of his career-high 70 assists in the past nine games, scored a goal in Winnipeg's 5-3 home win against the Coyotes in October and set up a tally in a 4-1 setback in Arizona on Feb. 24.

The upstart Coyotes may harbor a bit of resentment against Winnipeg, as the Jets' defeat at the hands of the Avalanche officially eliminated Arizona from postseason contention.

Then again, the Coyotes didn't do themselves any favors after following up a sizzling 10-2-0 run by losing seven of their next nine (2-4-3). Arizona got back on its feet with a 4-1 victory over Vegas on Thursday before it officially was eliminated from postseason contention for the seventh straight year later in the night.

"This room is bummed," said Derek Stepan, who recorded his third multi-goal performance of the season by tallying twice in the second period on Thursday.

"You play an 82-game schedule, we're in the thick of things and obviously came up a little bit short. When it's official and you're officially out, it stinks. We worked extremely hard, gone through a lot as a group, so it's never easy being told that your season will be done after your last game."

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper returned to the lineup after leaving Tuesday's setback to Los Angeles because of an eye injury. He stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third period and 37 overall against Vegas. Against the Jets in February, he turned aside 34 of 35 shots.

While Saturday's contest won't mean much in the standings for the Coyotes, they can claim their 40th win of the season for just the third time since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.

"We'll go home and take care of business at home," the 28-year-old Stepan said of the game against the Jets. "We want to make sure we finish this right. ... We want to make sure that we tip our cap back to those fans."

--Field Level Media

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