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Three Storylines Heading into Jets Matchup Against Senators

After winning the second game of their recent back-to-back series, the Winnipeg Jets are slated to face off against the Ottawa Senators for the second time in just three days and will be aiming to come away victorious once again, although they’d probably prefer to accomplish that before regulation concludes this time.

Despite trailing by one goal heading into the third period on Tuesday, the Jets rallied during the final minutes, which resulted in a clutch game-tying goal from captain Blake Wheeler. Carrying their momentum into the extra frame, forward Nikolaj Ehlers potted the game-winning goal, providing his team with their second win on the young season.

Here are three storylines that could impact the Jets’ second consecutive showdown against the Senators:

1. Still Without Patrik Laine 

Though Winnipeg was optimistic forward Patrik Laine, who’s been sidelined with an upper-body injury since Sunday, would be healthy enough to return to the lineup for Thursday’s game, coach Paul Maurice revealed 22-year old isn’t ready to take that step as of yet. As a result, the 6-foot-5 winger is slated to miss his third straight game and it’s also unclear if he’ll be able to play this weekend when his team endures another back-to-back series.

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With Laine out of the lineup, teammates Mathieu Perreault and Ehlers have been tasked with the difficult job of attempting to fill his spot, which hasn’t gone smoothly as both of them haven’t recorded a single point during even-strength situations over the last two games. Considering forward Kyle Connor has recently returned to the top line, it’ll be crucial for the club’s second line to create some much-needed success during Thursday’s matchup.

2. Sami Niku Must Prove Himself 

Since defenseman Dylan DeMelo and his wife had a baby just before the regular season opened, teammate Sami Niku has filled in as his replacement for the first three games of the season but it hasn’t been a strong start for him, as he’s committed four different turnovers and has been charged with a trio of penalties as well. To make matters worse, the 24-year old has been positioned with Josh Morrissey on the top defensive pairing over the last two games and has registered just one shot on net during that span.

While Niku is expected to skate alongside Morrissey once again on Thursday night, his playing time could take a massive hit moving forward, as Maurice confirmed DeMelo will be making his season debut on Saturday against the Senators. Looking to maintain a regular spot in the lineup, the former seventh-round pick must protect the puck more effectively and will need to start creating significantly more pressure in the offensive zone.

3. Jets Need to Find a Way to Score First

As crazy as it may sound, the Jets have won two games this season without ever holding a lead during regulation. In particular, the majority of their struggles have come in the opening period, as they’re currently tied for the second-fewest goals scored (two) and tied for the third-most goals allowed (five) during the first 20 minutes of play among all 31 teams in the league.

Considering the Senators are tied for the fourth-most goals scored (four) in the first period, it’ll be extremely important for this team to break out of their slow starts and come out strong when the puck drops on Thursday night. If they’re able to accomplish that feat, then they’ll probably take a ton of pressure off goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, which is something they’re striving to achieve.

Lineups: 

Winnipeg Jets:

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LW C RW
Kyle Connor
KYLE CONNOR

Rating: 79.5#5 LW

Mark Scheifele
MARK SCHEIFELE

Rating: 76.8#19 C

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Blake Wheeler
BLAKE WHEELER

Rating: 76.3#22 RW

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Nikolaj Ehlers
NIKOLAJ EHLERS

Rating: 75.7#20 LW

Paul Stastny
PAUL STASTNY

Rating: 74.8#36 C

Andrew Copp
ANDREW COPP

Rating: 72.5#60 RW

Mathieu Perreault
MATHIEU PERREAULT

Rating: 71.1#96 LW

Adam Lowry
ADAM LOWRY

Rating: 69.2#149 C

Mason Appleton
MASON APPLETON

Rating: 69.5#123 RW

Jansen Harkins
JANSEN HARKINS
Nate Thompson
NATE THOMPSON

Rating: 69.4#145 C

Trevor Lewis
TREVOR LEWIS

Rating: 70.1#114 RW

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Josh Morrissey
JOSH MORRISSEY

Rating: 74.1#29 LD

Sami Niku
SAMI NIKU

Rating: 71.4#92 RD

Derek Forbort
DEREK FORBORT

Rating: 70.5#109 LD

Neal Pionk
NEAL PIONK

Rating: 75.3#20 RD

Logan Stanley
LOGAN STANLEY
Nathan Beaulieu
NATHAN BEAULIEU

Rating: 72.1#72 RD

Ottawa Senators: 

LW C RW
Brady Tkachuk
BRADY TKACHUK

Rating: 75.0#27 LW

Josh Norris
JOSH NORRIS
Drake Batherson
DRAKE BATHERSON
Alex Galchenyuk
ALEX GALCHENYUK

Rating: 70.8#115 LW

Derek Stepan
DEREK STEPAN

Rating: 72.7#67 C

Evgenii Dadonov
EVGENII DADONOV

Rating: 73.1#53 RW

Nick Paul
NICK PAUL

Rating: 71.2#105 LW

Chris Tierney
CHRIS TIERNEY

Rating: 72.2#77 C

Connor Brown
CONNOR BROWN

Rating: 72.6#66 RW

Cedric Paquette
CEDRIC PAQUETTE

Rating: 70.7#118 LW

Colin White
COLIN WHITE

Rating: 70.3#129 C

Austin Watson
AUSTIN WATSON

Rating: 69.1#140 RW

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Thomas Chabot
THOMAS CHABOT

Rating: 74.5#23 LD

Erik Gudbranson
ERIK GUDBRANSON

Rating: 71.3#77 RD

Mike Reilly
MIKE REILLY

Rating: 72.4#64 LD

Nikita Zaitsev
NIKITA ZAITSEV

Rating: 70.5#97 RD

Braydon Coburn
BRAYDON COBURN

Rating: 72.0#77 LD

Josh Brown
JOSH BROWN

Where to watch/listen:

The puck will drop at 6 pm CT and will be available on TSN 3 along with 680 CJOB.