|Jets set for home-and-home series vs. hapless Wings|
Despite the incredible amount of offseason turnover among the defense corps and a recent wave of injuries, the Winnipeg Jets are rolling along, with a golden opportunity to keep it going.
Heading into a home-and-home series with the cellar-dwelling Detroit Red Wings -- which kicks off on Tuesday in Winnipeg -- the Jets are on an 8-2-1 run that has them in the mix for top spot in the hotly contested Central Division.
"The resiliency of our team, that's what we've built on all year," captain Blake Wheeler said. "That's been our foundation coming into games and having that compete level every single night. From there, the plays will work themselves out."
Winnipeg is coming off a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, a contest that started a stretch of five of six games at home for the Jets. After early season struggles in Winnipeg, the Jets are 6-1-1 in their past home games.
Coach Paul Maurice said a key has been his club's ability to take adversity in stride. For example, the Jets struggled to start against Anaheim but found their form.
"Understanding that the game is going to look a certain way, knowing what to expect and giving yourself an opportunity to get better, ... saying, 'We weren't great, but we can get better in this game,' always leaves the door open," Maurice said. "It's a little bit more of a positive way to approach your game, but we've done it so long now, I think it's in our room. If we aren't good in the first (period), that doesn't mean we can't be great in the second or third."
"Great" is not a word being thrown around the last-place Red Wings, who are on pace for one of the worst seasons in NHL history. Detroit has lost nine straight games in regulation and gone 11 clashes without a victory, and is on pace for just 45 points. That would be the lowest 82-game total since the league brought in the salary cap in 2005-06 and the worst non-lockout season since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers mustered a mere 39 points.
The battle to remain positive is just as difficult as the opposition.
"It's tough, we're giving it our best. It's definitely not work ethic," Detroit forward Adam Erne said. "This is a group that works hard every single game and every single day of practice. Sure, it gets frustrating, but we have to turn the page and go to the next (game)."
Detroit, which is coming off a 5-3 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, is the lowest-scoring team in the league and worst defensive club. At this rate, the Red Wings are likely to have the best odds for the 2020 draft, but getting a scoring star like Alexis Lafreniere won't be a magic bullet for all of the club's issues.
"What will it take? Just a whole bunch of little steps forward and we just got to keep taking those steps," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "No matter how many times you get knocked backwards, you got to take steps forwards. That's the reality. I'm a big, big believer in that."
While the Red Wings will be without Andreas Athanasiou on Tuesday due to injury, forward Justin Abdelkader is slated to return after missing 12 games with an upper-body injury.
The Jets will play the Red Wings in Detroit on Thursday.
--Field Level Media