Playoff Push #70: Jets set to open crucial homestand against Sharks

The Winnipeg Jets are getting healthy at the right time as they try to stay in the playoff hunt Tuesday night.

Defencemen Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien both returned to practice and are closer to returning to the lineup as the Jets open a three-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks at the MTS Centre.

Myers, who missed one game with an upper-body injury, declared himself fit for action. Byfuglien, however, may need a few more days to fully heal from his upper-body injury.

The Jets (34-23-12, 80 points) are one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild-card spot.

Lines

Lines provided by DailyFaceoff.com.

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The Jets’ hottest scorer Michael Frolik saw his career-best eight-game point streak come to an end in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on the weekend. 

Andrew Ladd still leads the team with 55 points but the Jets captain has been held off the scoresheet the last two games and has a minus-2 rating.

Centre Bryan Little, the team’s leading goal scorer with 24, remains sidelined with a lingering upper-body injury.

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Having both Myers and Byfuglien back at practice is a huge boost to a blue-line that has been decimated by injuries of late.

Byfuglien has missed the last four games and the Jets have gone 2-2 without their best defenceman.

“He’s a little ahead of where we thought he might fall,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun when asked about Byfuglien’s progress.

Paul Postma draws out after suffering an injury against the Lightning.

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Ondrej Pavelec will get the call between the pipes. Pavelec was solid in net against the Bolts, turning aside 15 of 16 shots to earn the victory.

San Jose

The Sharks (34-27-8) are in a dog fight for a playoff spot too. San Jose sits 10th in the Western Conference standings four points behind the Jets and five out of the final playoff spot.

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Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks with 32 goals and 62 points this season. 

The right winger has seven points in the last eight games heading into action Tuesday against the Jets.

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Brent Burns, who boasts one of the best beards in the National Hockey League, leads all Sharks defencemen with 16 goals and 50 points. Six of his goals have come on the man advantage this season as the Sharks rank fifth in power play percentage at 22%.

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Sharks netminder Antii Niemi has a 3-2-1 all-time record against the Jets. 

Niemi boats a 27-19-7 record with a 2.58 goals-against average.

Predictions

Game Day Predictions: The Jets have dropped both their games against the Sharks, including a 3-2 loss on Jan. 2. But it’s crunch time. The Jets will pull out a 3-1 win.

Obvious Predictions: Get enough traffic in front of Niemi and this game may be over before it even begins. 

Not So Obvious Predictions: After the Jets win, Sharks all-star Joe Thornton and general manager Doug Wilson will have a wrestling match in the MTS Centre parking lot.

Playoff Chances

The Jets have a 45% chance of making the playoffs according to SportsClubStats.com:

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