Jets aim to soar past lowly Sabres
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- If the Winnipeg Jets could figure out how to play in overtime or the shootout, look out.
Sitting in second place in the ultra-competitive Central Division with 53 points, the Jets have lost all six of their games that have been decided in overtime this season and they've won one of the two contests that went to a shootout. The lone post-regulation victory was over the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 16.
Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson orchestrated the latest setback, a 3-2 overtime loss in Denver on Tuesday night, by beating Connor Hellebuyck on a breakaway with less than 10 seconds to play in the fourth period.
"I'm sick of these overtime losses," the 24-year-old netminder told The Winnipeg Sun. "I know this isn't how the playoffs are going to go, but I'd like to have these points. I thought we deserved more."
In the silver-lining department, the Jets salvaged a point after trailing 2-0 following the second period. Captain Blake Wheeler scored both Jets goals, one to start the period and the second with 33 seconds left in regulation. They also outshot the Avs 44-26.
The Jets welcomed defenseman Dustin Byfuglien back to the lineup in Denver, after he missed 10 games with a lower-body injury. He has 15 assists in 29 games but is still looking for his first goal of the year. He nearly ended things Tuesday but was foiled by Jonathan Bernier on a breakaway seconds before Colorado scored.
It appears as if Toby Enstrom could join him against Buffalo. The diminutive Swedish rearguard has been out with a lower-body injury since mid-November. He exchanged his non-contact jersey at practice Thursday for a full-contact one.
The Sabres flew into town immediately following a 6-2 thumping at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, a game that only looks semi-respectable because the Wild took their foot of the accelerator after building a six-goal lead through two periods.
"It was really nothing that Minnesota did -- they capitalized on their opportunities I'll give them credit -- but it was what we gave them," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We gave them too much, we left too much on the table when we didn't have to. Playing on the road like this against a good team fighting for a playoff spot, we knew they were going to try to come and we've just got to be smart about it and tonight we weren't."
It's possible the Sabres could be without the services of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who was assessed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct for his open-ice headshot on Wild captain Mikko Koivu in the first period.
It's not known yet whether the hit will yield any further discipline from the league but Koivu, who went to the locker room for some stitches, returned with a puffy lip to score his team's fifth goal.
"I think there should have been a call on the play, but I don't agree with five minutes," said Housley, who was a star defenseman for Jets 1.0 in the early 1990s.
Updated January 5, 2018