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Coyotes return to Winnipeg to battle new Jets

The Phoenix Coyotes will visit the city they once called home, as the NHL's latest version of the Winnipeg Jets hosts tonight's battle at the MTS Centre.

The Coyotes were known as the Winnipeg Jets before relocating to Arizona following the 1995-96 season. Although the Phoenix franchise still owns the original Jets' history, the owners of the new Winnipeg franchise decided to revive the team name when they moved the Atlanta Thrashers to Manitoba this summer.

It should be a special night for Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who was a first- round pick by the original Jets in 1995 and has only played for the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise. Doan skated in 74 games as a rookie for the original Jets in 1995-96 and is the only holdover remaining from Phoenix's time in Winnipeg.

"I don't know how I'll be received," Doan told the Coyotes' website. "It will be one of those things where we'll wait and see. They've got their team and they're very passionate about their own team so anybody that comes in (on another team) they're not going to be too excited about."

Doan had two assists for the Coyotes when they posted a 4-1 home win over the Jets on Oct. 15. Phoenix has won six in a row over the Jets and is 13-1 with a tie in 15 all-time meetings against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise.

The Coyotes enter tonight having won two straight and three of their last four games, while Winnipeg has lost two in a row and three of four.

Phoenix has outscored the opposition by a 7-1 margin in its last two trips to the ice and the Coyotes are coming off Tuesday's 4-1 triumph in Chicago. Mike Smith stopped 24 shots and came within 43 seconds of his second consecutive shutout to help lift the Coyotes past the Blackhawks.

Smith, who blanked Dallas on Saturday, held the Blackhawks off the board until Patrick Sharp scored in the waning moments of regulation. Smith has been sensational so far this season, going 12-4-3 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.

Ray Whitney had a goal and two assists, while Doan, Daymond Langkow and Radim Vrbata also scored for the Coyotes, who improved to 7-3-1 as the visiting team this season.

The Jets began a five-game homestand on a sour note, as they dropped a 6-4 decision Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators. Zack Smith scored the game- winner late in the third period to lift the Senators over the Jets in a game that featured four lead changes.

Ondrej Pavelec yielded five goals on 33 shots for Winnipeg. Evander Kane scored twice in the first 2:41 of the third period to give the Jets a 4-3 lead, but that cushion was not enough for the home team.

"We had an opportunity to kick off a good homestand and we let it slip away at the end," Kane said of the Jets, who will be the host in 11 of their next 12 games.

Winnipeg is 5-4-0 as the host this year and will continue the homestand Saturday against New Jersey.

Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey is questionable for tonight after sitting out the last three games with a lower body injury. Forward Nik Antropov sustained an undisclosed injury in Tuesday's loss and is also questionable.