The push for the post-season just got a little tougher for the Winnipeg Jets.
With eight games remaining in the regular season, the Jets (38-24-12) still hold the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 86 points heading into action Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens.
But the Los Angeles Kings are moving up fast, sitting just two points behind the Jets.
The Jets begin a four-game homestead where they’ll face three of the top teams in the National Hockey League.
Lines provided by DailyFaceoff.com
Not much will change up front for the Jets. That could change as centre Bryan Little, who has missed the past nine games with an upper-body injury, is inching closer to a return.
Left-winger Mathieu Perreault also practised this week and could be back in the lineup in the near future.
Andrew Ladd still leads the team in scoring with 24 goals and 58 points.
The Jets will get a boost on the blue-line as top defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will debut against the Montreal Canadiens. Byfuglien, who has missed the team’s last nine games with an upper-body injury, leads all Jets defencemen in scoring with 15 goals and 42 points.
Ben Chariot also returned to practice this week.
Ondrej Pavelec, the NHL’s first star of the week, has won his last five starts. He posted a 0.98 goals against average and .967 save percentage during a five-game winning streak.
The Canadiens (46-20-8) are looking to lock down first place in the Eastern Conference. Montreal sits first in the conference with 100 points — one ahead of Tampa Bay and New York Rangers.
Max Pacioretty is riding a four-game point streak heading into action on Thursday. The six-foot-two winger has one goal and three assists in that span. He also leads the team in scoring with 35 goals and 64 points to go along with a league-leading plus-41 rating.
Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban has been left off the scoresheet the past three games and has just two points in the least six games. But Subban loves playing against the Jets, having scored a pair of goals and seven points in 12 career games against Winnipeg.
The league’s best goaltender is getting a break. Habs head coach announced that Dustin Tokarski will get the call in net Thursday, giving Carey Price a much-needed rest with the playoffs a couple weeks away.
Price leads the league in wins (40), goals against average (1.88), save percentage (.937) and shutouts (9).
Game Day Prediction: The fact the Jets won’t have to face Price is a huge advantage. Jets take this one 3-2 in overtime.
Obvious Predictions: The Canadiens have a tough time scoring goals on the road and are ranked 27th in shots per game with 28.3. Don’t expect a ton of goals tonight.
Not So Obvious Predictions: Subban is called for a diving penalty, which leads to the Jets’ game-winning goal.
The Jets have a 65.2% chance of making the playoffs, according to clubsportsstats.com.