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The Winnipeg Jets hope a little taste of home cooking will help get their game back on track.
Bell MTS Place was one of the most difficult venues for visiting NHL teams to play in last year, and the Jets will look to pick up where they left off when they host the Los Angeles Kings tonight in their home-opener.
“There’s a little bit more buzz, for sure. Again, excited to get back into our rink, to get back going. When you play on the road and you hit a post, nobody cares, but when you play at home and you hit a post, you get a pretty good jump from the crowd and anything that’s around the net is exciting, so you get that boost,” coach Paul Maurice said following the morning skate.
Winnipeg (1-1-0) beat St. Louis last Thursday to kick off the season, but then came out flat in a 5-1 loss in Dallas Saturday night.
“I’m going to be really careful about attaching any panic or concern on any area after two (games). We split on the road (against) two good teams. And we’ll try to be a real good team at home here now,” said Maurice.
Los Angeles (1-0-1) is off to a strong start but is without No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick, who is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Jack Campbell is expected to get the start.
Winnipeg will ice the same lineup from the first two games, including Connor Hellebuyck in net. That means defenceman Dmitry Kulikov and forwards Marko Dano and Brendan Lemieux will be the scratches.
Jacob Trouba missed practice Monday and this morning’s skate while attending to a family matter in Michigan but will return in time to play, said Maurice. Adam Lowry is also good to go after sitting out Monday’s on-ice workout.
Maurice said he’s looking for more disciplined play from his team, which gave up three power play goals in five opportunities against the Stars.
“We don’t like the stick penalties where we’re tripping guys. There’s a big volume of that. We were eager to get on the puck, not with our feet but with our sticks. We want to clean that up a bit. When you look at (the fact) we opened with two games in the Central (Division), you’ll find a big majority of the Central find themselves in the Top-10 in penalties. It’s a certain kind of game, very physical,” he said.
“But we want to make sure that we’re really good with our sticks. There were two (minors) I don’t like (the calls) but that’s going to happen regularly. There’s the batted one (puck) into the stands. We got a couple of physical penalties we can be smarter with.”
Although scoring is up early in the NHL season, the Kings traditionally play a more defensive-style game which centre Mark Scheifele said his squad will have to be patient with.
“They’re a good team. They play solid. They play great defensively. They’ve got some great players up front and on the back end. We know it’s going to be a tough game,” said Scheifele.
“You just can’t overcomplicate the game. You can’t try to do too much. You can’t try to make a play every time you touch the puck. You have to play the simple way for the 60 minutes. If it takes 59 minutes to get one, it takes 59 minutes. But it all starts defence first against a team like this.”
Winnipeg went 32-7-2 at Bell MTS Place last season, a huge part of their overall success. They’ll hit the road after this one for a quick stop in Nashville Thursday night, then come back to start a six-game homestand Sunday against Carolina.
‘Obviously, you’re going to have more energy. You got to get the juices going for a home opener. It’s always a fun game. We know our fans are going to be rocking the building tonight. We’re excited to get going,” said Scheifele.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.