Playoff Push #68: Winnipeg Jets look to stay in post-season picture against Florida Panthers

The Winnipeg Jets will try put a heartbreaking loss behind them as they attempt to stay in the playoff picture Thursday night.

With 14 games remaining in the regular season, the Jets (33-22-12, 78) are hanging on to the final wild-card spot heading into action against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.

The Jets rallied from a 4-1 deficit against the St. Louis Blues before a Barrett Jackman shot from near centre ice sailed over the glove of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and into the net with 1:03 left in the game.

“There was a minute left and I thought (Jackman) was going to dump it in,” Pavelec told the Winnipeg Sun. “I lost the puck in the stands and it just went in. Stuff like that happens.”

The road won’t get much easier against the playofff-hungry Panthers, either.

Lines

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Right winger Michael Frolik has a career-best seven game point streak going, scoring five goals and adding two assists in that span. 

Frolik, an ex-Panther, has accumulated five points in six career games against his former team so there’s a pretty solid chance he’ll keep his streak alive on Thursday night.

Jets captain continues to lead the team in scoring with 55 points. Bryan Little, who is still sidelined with a lower-body injury, leads the Jets with 24 goals.

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In their last meeting against the Panthers, the Jets cruised to an 8-2 victory. Mathieu Perrault, who is injured, scored four goals in the victory.

Tyler Myers continues to fit right in on the Jets blue-line — especially in the absence of Dustin Byfuglien, who is out at least another two weeks with a lower-body injury. In 11 games since being acquired from the Sabres, Myers has two goals and nine points with the Jets.

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Despite being pulled in his last two games, Michael Hutchinson is expected to get his eighth straight start in net for Winnipeg. 

Head coach Paul Maurice doesn’t have much of a choice after how their last game ended.

Florida

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo won’t be ready to play against the Jets. 

Luongo worked out on Wednesday but is not ready for game action, according to the Miami Herald.

“He’s getting better,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant told the paper. “We would love to have him (Thursday) but it’s just not there. He’s just not ready to play.”

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The Panthers are expected to have Dave Bolland back in the lineup after the centre missed eight straight games with an upper-body injury and the flu.

Nick Bjugstad leads the Panthers in scoring with 40 points.

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Blue-liner Aaron Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, missed the Panthers’ last game with the flu. Ekblad returned to practice and is expected to be in the lineup against the Jets.

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Predictions

Game Day Predictions: Michael Hutchinson will have a bounce-back game and lead the Jets to a much-needed victory.

Obvious Predictions: Captain Ladd will have another big performance. He does have 26 points in 35 career games against the Panthers.

Not So Obvious Predictions: The Panthers will run of goaltenders and will finally get to see Robb Tallas between the pipes.