NHL Hockey

Jets open crucial homestand against Red Wings

A five-game homestand might be just what the Winnipeg Jets need to lock up a playoff berth.

The Jets, who host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, are trying to fight off the Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators for the last Western Conference wild-card spot. Winnipeg played eight of its previous 10 games on the road and went 5-5-0 during that stretch.

In their past two outings, the Jets (41-31-3, 85 points) lost at Los Angeles 4-1 and at San Jose 3-0. Winnipeg is 22-12-2 at home this season.

Jet coach Rick Bowness expressed exasperation after seeing his team get blanked on Tuesday.

"There comes a point when your personal pride has to take over," he said. "If someone has to go in there and point that out to them, then there is a big problem right there. We're going to find out what we're made of and we're going to find out what everyone in that room is made of over the next little while."

Winnipeg's offense has lacked punch over the past nine games, producing three or fewer goals each time. The Jets were shut out in three of their past seven games, though the Sharks' James Reimer had to make 41 saves to keep them off the scoreboard.

"The offense gave us a chance to win the game, we just didn't score," Bowness said. "Then, the inconsistencies with some of our players is hurting us. Some of these guys think they're giving us everything in their tank. They're dreaming. We have a lot of guys in there giving us everything they can. We just need a few more guys to jump on board."

Jets center Mark Scheifele admitted the team's confidence has been shaken.

"Obviously it's tough for goals to come by. We're pretty cold right now," he said. "Is there things I think we could do differently? For sure. But like I said before, we're in the thick of it. When confidence is low and you're cold, you grip the stick a little tighter."

Detroit (33-32-9, 75 points) will be playing the tail end of a back-to-back set on Friday. The Red Wings have won two straight, including a 3-2 thriller over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Jake Walman scored the game-winner with four seconds left in regulation.

Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Larkin were the other goal scorers. For Larkin, it was his team-high 28th of the season.

The Red Wings now have more wins than they registered all of last season.

"It's going to be so hard to judge this team because we are a shell of what we were before the (trade) deadline with injuries," first-year coach Derek Lalonde said. "I guess you want to take steps forward, but that's just on paper. No matter what happens in these last eight games, it feels like we've moved forward."

Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit's No. 1 goalie last year who has spent much of this season in the American Hockey League, earned wins against Pittsburgh and Carolina in the past two games. Magnus Hellberg likely will get the start in Winnipeg, since No. 1 goaltender Ville Husso is still dealing with a lower-body injury.

Detroit won 7-5 on its home ice against Winnipeg on Jan. 10, as seven different Red Wings scored.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 31, 2023

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