WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Winnipeg Jets are back in must-win territory again, but after falling to last season's Stanley Cup finalists on Monday their challenge on Wednesday goes up a notch when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town.
Last year's Stanley Cup champions are in no danger of missing the playoffs but they're playing for home-ice advantage and are unlikely to give the Jets much in the way of charity.
They weren't acting very charitably when they last played the Jets if you ask Blake Wheeler. During the course of the Penguins 4-3 home win on Feb. 16, center Evgeni Malkin left his feet and hit the Jets captain in the head with his shoulder, resulting in a minor penalty. Literally adding insult to injury, Malkin later set up Sidney Crosby's overtime winner.
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The lack of a major penalty and suspension caused a great hue and cry among Jets fans about the NHL playing favorites, particularly when defenseman Jacob Trouba was suspended for two games after a head shot against Ottawa's Mark Stone just three nights later.
Wheeler, however, isn't planning on doing any head hunting.
"My priorities rest in trying to get a win for our team," Wheeler told the Winnipeg Free Press. "That's where that lies. There's no room for any of that (retribution)."
"It's a big game for our team (Wednesday). That's it."
The Jets trail the St. Louis Blues by five points in the hunt for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference following the Blues 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. St. Louis also has two games in hand.
Jets coach Paul Maurice doesn't want his players running around with revenge on their minds, particularly since the Penguins have the third-best power-play in the league with a success rate of 22.3 percent.
"If you're sitting 20 points over the (playoff) line and you're in, everybody gets a number," he said. "But I think we'll play this one as hard as we can, as clean as we can because we don't want them on the power play."
The Penguins likely won't be lethal as they usually are with the man advantage as defenseman Kris Letang did not accompany the team on their five-game road trip. He hasn't played for two weeks as he's still suffering from an upper-body injury, but speculation is growing that he's dealing with a concussion or a heart problem, both of which have plagued him in the past.
"Our medical staff has a good handle on it," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "When he's ready to play or he's getting close and we get him on the ice, we'll let you guys know. I really don't want to go down the road of talking details of his injury. We're hopeful here that he's making progress."
It's also possible that goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Derrick Pouliot won't play, as both missed Tuesday's practice because they weren't feeling well.