New York Rangers (35-28-4) at Winnipeg Jets (20-28-9), 8 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The playoff-hopeful Winnipeg Jets desperately need a win to aid their fragile postseason chances and they hope to get that victory on Friday when the struggling New York Rangers visit the MTS Centre.
Paul Maurice's club is in the midst of a five-game slide, and although the Jets have managed to earn three points during the skid they'll need to start rattling off some wins to make the playoffs.
Winnipeg is five points out of a playoff spot in the West with 15 games left on its schedule. The Jets haven't made the postseason since relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-12 campaign. The former Thrashers, meanwhile, only made the playoffs once during 11 frustrating seasons in Atlanta.
The Jets fell to 0-3-2 on their current funk after Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss against visiting Vancouver. Chris Higgins scored the game winner in the third round of the shootout, as the Canucks halted a seven-game road skid to down Winnipeg in the opener of a three-game homestand.
Winnipeg held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the game, but couldn't close out the win in regulation. Then, after the first five shooters came up empty, Higgins charged in down the middle and made a number of quick dekes before stuffing a forehand past Ondrej Pavelec's outstretched right pad for the victory.
Andrew Ladd and Michael Frolik each lit the lamp for Winnipeg, while Pavelec posted 31 saves in the setback.
"It's a loss because of the shootout," Maurice said. "It's a 2-2 game in terms of how it was played and I think that's a pretty accurate assessment of how the game went."
The Jets went 7-2-0 in the first nine games under Maurice, who replaced a fired Claude Noel in January. Winnipeg, however, is just 4-3-4 under Maurice since the coach's early success.
Winnipeg earned a win over the Rangers on Dec. 2, notching a 5-2 road victory at Madison Square Garden. Ex-Ranger Olli Jokinen had two goals and an assist to lead the offense and Pavelec made 35 saves for the win.
The Jets have won three of the last four meetings versus New York, but the Rangers have claimed two of the three encounters at the MTS Centre since the franchise relocated.
New York has lost two straight to begin a three-game road trip and Alain Vigneault's club is just 2-4-1 in March. With 74 points, the Rangers are tied with Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan Division. but they are only one ahead of Philadelphia, which currently holds the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
After losing 3-1 at Carolina on Tuesday, the Blueshirts dropped a 2-1 decision Thursday night at Minnesota. Zach Parise's goal 1:03 into the third period provided the difference in the Wild's 2-1 victory at XCel Energy Center.
Cam Talbot turned aside 24 shots in the loss, with Derek Stepan recording the lone New York goal.
"We're not scoring a lot of goals 5-on-5," said Vigneault. "I thought our effort was better tonight, our execution was a little bit better, but we need to finish more and obviously that wasn't the case tonight."
Martin St. Louis is one of the many Rangers struggling to find the net at the moment. St. Louis has no goals and one assist in five games since coming to New York in the blockbuster trade that sent former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay.
St. Louis has excellent career numbers against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, posting 27 goals and 55 assists over 74 career games.
Despite dropping the first two tilts on its current trek, New York still has a solid 19-13-0 road record this season. The Blueshirts will return home to host San Jose on Sunday, but then will head back out on another three-game swing.