The Winnipeg Jets hope to put the brakes on their longest losing streak of the season as they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in a battle of first-place teams.
The Jets have lost four straight and six of their past eight and now own just a two-point advantage over the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division, with the Carolina Hurricanes only four points off the pace. Winning the division is the goal of all three clubs seeing as the second-place Caps sit outside of the playoff picture at 10th overall in the Eastern Conference.
Winnipeg's struggles continued on Tuesday with a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders. Paul Postma scored both goals for the Jets, who gave up the go- ahead goal in the final minute of the second period. Postma came into the game with just one goal in 29 career games.
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 34-of-38 shots in the setback.
"It was a tough game for us," said Jets head coach Claude Noel. "It looked like we were slow, it looked like they had the puck, it looked like we were struggling to get it."
Winnipeg defenseman Grant Clitsome sat out the game after taking a stick to the eye in Monday's loss to the New York Rangers, but fellow blueliner Mark Stuart returned to the lineup after missing six straight with an upper-body injury. However, forward Nik Antropov suffered a lower body injury in the setback and is out.
The Jets, who conclude a three-game road trip, countered the loss of Antropov by claiming forward Mike Santorelli off waivers from the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Santorelli has played in 24 games with the Panthers this season, recording two goals and one assist.
The Canadiens failed to increase their one-point lead over the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Northeast Division on Wednesday, falling 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers. Montreal has played one more game than Boston, which hosts the New Jersey Devils tonight before visiting Montreal on Saturday.
The Habs got goals from Brandon Prust and David Desharnais 20 seconds apart late in the second period versus the Flyers to go up by a goal, but managed just two shots on goal in the third period while giving up 14 and three goals.
"We just didn't match their intensity, it's just that simple," said Montreal head coach Michel Therrien.
Carey Price stopped 29 shots for Montreal, which had its winning streak snapped at three games. Alexei Emelin scored in the first period.
Montreal opens a three-game homestand, but could do so without forward Tomas Plekanec after he left Wednesday's game with a lower body injury. He has notched 13 goals and 14 assists this season.
The Canadiens have won three straight and six of their last seven versus the Jets overall as well as four in a row and eight of the previous 10 encounters at home.