Following a four-day break – it’s been far too long without hockey – the Winnipeg Jets will finally return to action Thursday night as they attempt to gain some ground on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently sit four points ahead of them for first place in the North Division.
Despite coming away with a 5-2 victory back on Apr. 15, Winnipeg hasn’t fared overly well against Toronto this season, losing four of the seven games against them. But with the Maple Leafs currently riding a five-game losing streak, this could be the perfect time to exact some revenge and help them continue their losing ways, which would certainly cause the fanbase to freak out even more than they already are.
Here are three storylines that could impact the Jets’ eighth game of the season against the Maple Leafs:
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1. Jordie Benn Making His Jets Debut 

Beating the buzzer at this season’s trade deadline, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff acquired defenseman @Jordie Benn, who hasn’t played since Mar. 24, from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Considering the 33-year-old was quarantined before arriving in Winnipeg this past Friday, the team allowed him to work on his conditioning during this mini-bye week and believe this is a great opportunity for him to make his debut.
With Benn joining the Jets’ lineup Thursday, rookie @Logan Stanley will serve as a healthy scratch, creating an opening for the left-handed blueliner to skate alongside veteran @Dylan DeMelo on the third defensive pairing. Despite posting just one goal and nine points through 31 games this season, the coaching staff is hopeful the former undrafted free agent can utilize his impressive communication skills to help improve this club’s performance in the defensive zone.
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2. Blake Wheeler Returns to Lineup 

After missing six games due to a concussion, captain @Blake Wheeler is ready to return to action and will be suiting up for his first game since Apr. 5, which is when forward @Brady Tkachuk elbowed him in the head. While the 34-year-old was positioned alongside teammates @Paul Stastny and @Pierre-Luc Dubois at the time of his injury, coach Paul Maurice has reshuffled the top-six forwards once again, reuniting the 81-55-26 line.
Even though this trio of @Mark Scheifele, @Kyle Connor and Wheeler hasn’t been very effective at defending in their own zone, Maurice is hoping they can provide an offensive spark against Toronto’s high-powered offense. As a result of this line change, forwards @Nikolaj Ehlers, Stastny and Dubois will now be paired together on the second line, which will hopefully lead to plenty of success during this Thursday night showdown.
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3. All Eyes on Connor Hellebuyck 

With the Jets looking to move up in the standings, there’s no question they’ll be counting on goaltender @Connor Hellebuyck to help carry the freight during this highly-anticipated contest, which shouldn’t be anything new for him at this point. In his six previous meetings against the Maple Leafs, the 27-year-old has performed to a 2-2-2 record, generating a 2.49 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.
But considering Toronto is currently tied for the fifth-fewest goals scored per game (2.20) since Apr. 12, it might not be too difficult for Hellebuyck to frustrate their skaters, especially since he’s already accomplished that feat multiple times this season.

Lineups:

Winnipeg Jets:
LWCRW

KYLE CONNOR
Rating: 79.5#5 LW

MARK SCHEIFELE
Rating: 76.8#19 C

BLAKE WHEELER
Rating: 76.3#22 RW

PAUL STASTNY
Rating: 74.8#36 LW

PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS
Rating: 74.6#38 C

NIKOLAJ EHLERS
Rating: 75.7#20 RW

ANDREW COPP
Rating: 72.5#60 LW

ADAM LOWRY
Rating: 69.2#149 C

MASON APPLETON
Rating: 69.5#123 RW

MATHIEU PERREAULT
Rating: 71.1#96 LW

NATE THOMPSON
Rating: 69.4#145 C

TREVOR LEWIS
Rating: 70.1#114 RW
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DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

JOSH MORRISSEY
Rating: 74.1#29 LD

TUCKER POOLMAN
Rating: 71.6#74 RD

DEREK FORBORT
Rating: 70.5#109 LD

NEAL PIONK
Rating: 75.3#20 RD

JORDIE BENN
Rating: 70.9#101 LD

DYLAN DEMELO
Rating: 71.8#69 RD
Toronto Maple Leafs: 
LWCRW

ALEX GALCHENYUK
Rating: 70.8#115 LW

AUSTON MATTHEWS
Rating: 82.3#6 C

MITCH MARNER
Rating: 76.6#18 RW

ALEXANDER KERFOOT
Rating: 70.8#113 LW

JOHN TAVARES
Rating: 77.6#15 C

WILLIAM NYLANDER
Rating: 76.1#23 RW

JOE THORNTON
Rating: 72.3#74 LW

PIERRE ENGVALL
Rating: 71.0#98 C

WAYNE SIMMONDS
Rating: 70.2#112 RW

JASON SPEZZA
Rating: 69.4#126 C
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

MORGAN RIELLY
Rating: 75.3#14 LD

JUSTIN HOLL
Rating: 72.0#61 RD

JAKE MUZZIN
Rating: 75.1#17 LD

T.J. BRODIE
Rating: 74.2#27 RD

RASMUS SANDIN
Rating: 72.3#69 LD

ZACH BOGOSIAN
Rating: 71.4#76 RD

Where to Watch/Listen:

The puck will drop at 6 pm CT, don’t worry it’s perfectly fine to leave work early or just don’t go at all, and will be available on TSN 3 along with 680 CJOB.