WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The term "must win" stops being a cliche for the Winnipeg Jets Friday night.
The Jets trail the St. Louis Blues by five points for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference and have played two more games than their Central Division rivals, so a Winnipeg loss to the Blues would not officially eliminate the Jets from the playoff race, but it would make it nearly impossible for them to qualify for the postseason.
Seven points back with 17 games to go? Good luck.
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Both teams were active prior to the trade deadline on Wednesday but there's no question the Blues made the bigger move, trading defenseman and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 2017, forward Zach Sanford, a conditional 2019 draft pick and minor league forward Brad Malone.
The Jets, meanwhile, shipped winger Drew Stafford, whose contract was also set to expire at the end of this season, to the Boston Bruins for a conditional 2018 sixth-round pick.
The Jets are getting reinforcements of a different kind, however, as they will welcome defenseman Jacob Trouba back after a two-game suspension for an illegal hit on Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone. The Jets lost both games he was in the pressbox -- 5-4 to Toronto in overtime right before their bye week and 6-5 to Minnesota coming out of it.
Forwards Andrew Copp (upper-body) and Marko Dano (lower-body) are both expected to be in the lineup against St. Louis, too.
"Every team has kind of run into some trouble coming off the break," Trouba said after practice Thursday. "That all goes out the window. This is a pretty big game coming up here and it's one we need."
It's also possible goalie Ondrej Pavelec could return to the net for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury last month. Neither Connor Hellebuyck nor Michael Hutchinson was stellar in his absence.
The Blues come to town on the heels of a 2-1 loss at home to the Edmonton Oilers and haven't scored more than two goals in any of their past four games, all losses. To give you an indication of the Blues' lack of offensive punch, they had a power play for 3:11 and had eight shots on goal in that span. In the nearly 37 minutes that remained, they had just eight more shots. In the four losses, they have managed just a trio of even-strength goals.
"We've got to find a way to score more goals," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We've got find a way to get around the net, take more shots. It's been a theme for a while. We've got to do more of the little things. I think we can be a little more aggressive. We're sitting back a little more than we need to, especially in our own end. That, (along) with not scoring, is not really a good recipe."