Sizzling Jets take on fizzling Flyers
The Winnipeg Jets will go for their fifth straight win when they visit the slumping Philadelphia Flyers for a Saturday matinee.
Winnipeg (41-17-9) is 8-2 in its last 10 games but has actually lost ground to Central Division-leading Nashville, which has won 10 straight to build a six-point margin. Still, the Jets roll into Philadelphia undefeated in the first half of a six-game road trip.
Last time out, the Jets got goals from Patrik Laine, Joel Armia and Nikolaj Ehlers, and Connor Hellebuyck made 41 saves in a 3-2 win over the Devils in New Jersey.
Hellebuyck (35-10-8) passed Kari Lehtonen for the most wins in a season in Winnipeg/Atlanta Thrashers history. Lehtonen went 34-24-9 for Atlanta in 2006-07.
"Connor went through some growing pains last year and they were necessary," Jets coach Paul Maurice told NHL.com. "He spent the summer driven by last season and it's great that he gets the payoff for that work he did this summer because he's been very good for our team."
Laine is hot as well. He scored his 39th goal of the season against New Jersey and his sixth on the current road trip. He is one behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the league lead.
"I don't even know what to say. It's pretty funny, and pretty awesome of course. He's a pretty good friend, and seeing him scoring the way he does right now, you kind of wish you could do that as well," linemate Ehlers, who got the game-winner against the Devils, told the Winnipeg Free Press.
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov didn't come out to start the third period against the Devils and Maurice said he is day to day with an upper body injury.
The Flyers (34-23-11) were looking at overtime in Boston on Thursday night before the Bruins' Brad Marchand poked home a loose puck with 22 seconds left.
Jakub Voracek and Jori Lehtera scored, and Alex Lyon made 24 saves for Philadelphia, which has lost five in a row (0-4-1) and opens a three-game homestand against the Jets.
"It's disappointing and it's frustrating," Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov told NHL.com. "I think we played real hard today, battled for 60 minutes. And we came up short. But it was just one of those games, you've got to put it in the back of your mind and move on."
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol saw a lot of positives in the loss, which came one night after a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who now lead the Metropolitan Division.
"We took a big step in the right direction. We got back to who we are tonight," Hakstol told the Courier Post. "Sometimes you get stripped down to your core on the back-to-backs. I thought that was the case tonight, but guys dug down and played a pretty simple road game.
"Everyone did a little bit. We didn't get points out of it, but for sure this is our best 60 minutes in the last five games and probably significantly longer than that."
Battling injuries on their blue line, the Flyers recalled defenseman Travis Sanheim from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night.
Petr Mrazek will be back in net for the Flyers on Saturday. He is 3-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average (GAA) and a .908 save percentage against the Jets.
Hellebuyck is 1-1 with a 2.92 GAA and .887 save percentage versus the Flyers.
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