Playoff Push #71: Jets to renew division rivalry with first-place Blues

The Winnipeg Jets haven’t had much success against the St. Louis Blues.

Having dropped all three previous meetings this season, the Jets will look to stay in the playoff picture Thursday night when they host the Blues at MTS Centre.

The Jets (35-23-12), winners of their last two games, hold the final wild-card spot in the West with 82 points — one ahead of the surging Calgary Flames.

Lines

Lines provided by DailyFaceoff.com

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The Jets will have to wait at least one more game before leading goal scorer Bryan Little returns to action.

Little, who has been sidelined with a lingering upper-body injury, practised on Wednesday but still is not game ready.

“I think the next step is seeing how (the injury) holds up with contact,” Little told the Jets’ official website.

Blake Wheeler has been the Jets’ hottest scorer of late as the winger has 11 points in the last seven games.

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Dustin Byfuglien was also on the ice on Wednesday but will not return to the lineup. The Jets’ top defenceman, who has 15 goals and 42 points, has been out since suffering an upper-body injury in a loss to the Ottawa Senators on March 4.

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Jets head coach Paul Maurice will go with Ondrej Pavelec between the pipes for the third consecutive time.

Pavelec, whose last start against the Blues didn’t have such a happy ending, has posted back-to-back victories and has stopped 73 of 76 shots faced.

St. Louis

The Blues (45-20-5) sit in first place in the Central Division and will also be looking for a third straight victory. St. Louis has won five of its past six games, three of which have been shutouts.

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Blues left-winger Alex Steen, who was born in Winnipeg while his father Thomas played for the Jets, has three goals and six assists in the past six games.

Vladimir Tarasenko leads the team in scoring with 34 goals and 68 points.

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Kevin Shattenkirk leads the Blues’ defencemen in scoring with eight goals and 40 points but he remains sidelined with an abdominal injury.

Since Shattenkirk’s injury, head coach Ken Hitchcock has been forced to split up his preferred top pairingn of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester.

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Brian Elliott is expected to get the call in net for the Blues. 

Elliott set a new franchise record with his 21st shutout as a member of the Blues, who have a 126:16 shutout streak going into action Thursday.

Predictions

Game Day Predictions: Wheeler will continue to carry the Jets on his back and lead them to a 3-2 win over the Blues.

Obvious Predictions: Jiri Tlusty has one point in 10 career games against the Blues. Don’t expect his first goal in a Jets uniform to come tonight.

Not So Obvious Predictions: Adam Pardy will do his best Barret Jackman impersonation and score the game winner from centre ice with less than a second left in the game. 

Playoff Chances

The Jets’ chances of making the playoffs jumped from 45% to 56.2% according to SportsClubStats.com.

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