The Coyotes book-ended a shutout win against the Chicago Blackhawks with two losses to the Dallas Stars before heading into the break, and have won two of their last five games. No team was hotter than the Jets heading into the Olympics, and despite a shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues in their final game, the Jets hold a 9-3-1 record under new head coach, Paul Maurice. Maurice earned his first win with the Jets their last game against the Coyotes, a 5-1 victory at the MTS Centre on January 13th.
The Jets sit two points back of the Coyotes, who have two games in hand. Both teams trail the Stars, who hold the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference: Phoenix is ranked 3rd, while the Jets are in 5th.
Both the Jets and Coyotes sent their starting goaltenders to the Olympic tournament, with Ondrej Pavelec Ondrej Pavelec?” href=”http://hockeyattheforks.com/2014/02/26/will-olympics-help-hurt-ondrej-pavelec/”>guiding the Czech Republic to a 6th place finish, while Smith and Team Canada won gold. Both goaltenders are not expected to start, leaving Al Montoya (10-4-2, .925 SV%, 2.18 GAA) in-goal for the Jets, and Thomas Greiss (7-4-1, .932 SV%, 2.09 GAA) his Phoenix counterpart. Montoya last played in the Jets’ shootout loss to the Blues on February 8th, while Greiss hasn’t played since January 30th.
The Jets will see Evander Kane return to the lineup, after the sniper missed a multitude of games prior to the Olympics with a hand infection. Jim Slater and Matt Halischuk have both been cleared to play by team doctors, but will not be in the rotation for Thursday’s game. The Coyotes haven’t released an official word on defenseman Derek Morris, who missed the team’s last game before the break, but it is expected that he will make his return on Thursday.
The Coyotes brought home one medal of each kind with Smith’s gold, Oliver Ekman-Larsson of Sweden winning silver, and Lauri Korpikoski taking bronze with team Finland. Finland housed the Jets’ only Olympic medalist, Olli Jokinen. The last time Zbynek Michalek, Martin Hanzal, Michael Frolik, and Ondrej Pavelec hit the ice, they lost to Team USA as members of the Czech national team. On Thursday, each player will don their respective NHL team colors, and begin the final stretch of the season.
The Jets are 14-11-4 at home this season, and have had great success against Pacific Division teams, with an 8-4-1 record. The Coyotes are 5-7-2 against the Jets’ Central Division, and have a 10-11-7 record on the road.
You can watch the game on TSN Jets, as well as listen live on TSN 1290 radio. Non-regional viewers can catch the action on Fox Sports-Arizona. The game gets underway at 7:00 PM CT.
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