The newest incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets are still looking for their first victory of the season. They have a chance of picking up that elusive first win this evening against the franchise that used to call Manitoba home as they visit Phoenix for the Coyotes' home opener at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes franchise first entered the NHL as the original Jets in 1979 and remained in Winnipeg until relocating to Phoenix prior to the 1996-97 season. That left the city without a franchise until the Thrashers headed to Canada and took the name after spending their first 11 seasons in Atlanta.
The new Jets have opened their season with back-to-back losses, dropping a home test to the Canadiens last Sunday prior to a 4-3 defeat at the Blackhawks on Thursday. Jim Slater scored a pair of first-period goals to stake Winnipeg to an early lead, but Chicago answered with four straight goals.
"I think marginally we were [better than the season opener], in spurts, I think we started a little bit better," Jets head coach Claude Noel told his team's website. "We were better, but so was the opponent. It just shows you that it's a good team. We got up 2-0 and you'd like to think you can hold onto it for a while, but it's like golf, it's 18 holes, golf isn't done in the first three holes."
The Coyotes will play their first game at home after beginning the season with three in a row on the road. Phoenix managed a point over the first two games of the swing, a 2-1 shootout loss in Dallas on Monday, before recording its first win with a 5-2 decision at Nashville on Thursday.
"I thought we controlled the tempo of the game," Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said. "We had a lot of players play well tonight."
Mikkel Boedker also scored and Jason LaBarbera had 23 saves in the win. Shane Doan got his third goal of the season and 299th of his career on an empty- netter in the final minutes and also had an assist.
Doan is the last active player in the league to have played for the original Jets and is looking forward to this new rivalry.
"It's special. The opportunity to play in the NHL in that city was something that I'll never forget," Doan said. "You work your whole life for the chance to kind of fulfill your dream and as an 18-year-old kid I'm so grateful and thankful for the city giving me that.
"Now to play against them is kind of unique in that they've got the same name and it's the same city, but really the organization and everything is different. ... It's exciting for everybody. Hopefully they have a great year and we beat them [Saturday] night."
The Coyotes are set to play three straight and six of their next seven at Jobing.com Arena and history says they will improve on their 10-3-1 mark in home openers since moving to the desert. They have won five straight -- including three beyond regulation -- over the Jets franchise and are 12-1 with a tie in the 14 all-time meetings. That includes a 7-0 mark and a tie in eight games in Phoenix.