After completing successful Novembers, the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars will try to carry momentum into December when they meet on Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
The Jets went 10-3-1 in November while the Stars went 10-2-2, allowing both teams to climb into a tie for third in the Central Division, one point behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche.
“You look at the standings, it’s pretty tight,” Dallas left wing Jamie Benn told reporters following a 3-2 shootout loss at the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. “Every night is a battle. You’re going to have your ups and your downs, and your wins and your losses. It’s really who stays the most consistent and who bounces back best from losses.”
Dallas is winless in its past three games (0-2-1) after an 11-0-1 stretch from Oct. 29 to Nov. 25. Their only loss in that span was in overtime in Winnipeg on Nov. 10, but the Stars came back with a 5-3 home win over the Jets on Nov. 21.
The Jets and Stars also play Thursday in Dallas, their fourth meeting in 26 days.
Winnipeg is also coming off a defeat. The Jets missed a chance to sweep their three-game California trip with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
“We’re going to be in a battle like (Saturday night) for every single game for the rest of the year,” Jets coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the loss in L.A. “We’re not getting to a comfort place. It’s just going to be scratch and claw and our goaltending’s going to have to be good.”
Connor Hellebuyck is expected to start in goal for the Jets after serving as the backup against the Kings.
Hellebuyck is coming off a 24-save shutout at the Anaheim Ducks on Friday afternoon, lowering his goals-against average to 2.23 and lifting his save percentage to .933, just ahead of Boston’s Tuukka Rask for second in the NHL and two-thousandths of a point behind Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper.
Hellebuyck stopped 26 of 28 shots in the win against Dallas last month, but was dinged for four goals in the loss to the Stars 11 days later.
Dallas goalie Ben Bishop started the most recent game against the Jets and gave up three goals.
Anton Khudobin started the first game against Winnipeg, also giving up three goals.
The Stars finished fourth in their division last season but got into the playoffs as the first wild card. They then knocked off the Nashville Predators in the first round before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in seven games in the second round.
The strong month of November has the Stars excited about the possibility of making the playoffs two years in a row, which hasn’t happened since the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.
“I think guys are excited about the challenge,” Dallas left win Blake Comeau said.
“We knew at the start of the year our division was going to be a good division. Teams are starting to play well. You can see that everyone’s starting to tighten up their checking. That’s when we’re at our best … when we’re playing good defensive hockey and we’re creating chances that way.”
–Field Level Media