Published May 02, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two days after both teams clinched spots in the playoffs, the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames will close the regular season against each other on Saturday at MTS Centre.
The Flames did the heavy lifting for both clubs on Saturday with their 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. The regulation win not only handed Calgary a playoff berth, but also ensured Winnipeg a spot in the postseason by knocking the Kings out of the Western Conference wild card race.
Calgary eliminated L.A. from postseason contention, meaning there will be no repeat Stanley Cup champion in 2015. The Kings won their second title in three seasons last spring, but on Thursday they became the first Stanley Cup champs to miss the postseason the following year since Carolina failed to qualify in 2007.
The Jets, meanwhile, are in the postseason for the first time since relocating from Atlanta prior to the 2010-11 campaign. The only time the franchise was in the playoffs was in 2007 when the Atlanta Thrashers were swept in four games by the New York Rangers.
The Flames will face Vancouver in the first round although Saturday's action will determine who gets home-ice advantage in the series. Calgary is two points behind the Canucks for the second seed in the Pacific with Vancouver set to close the season at home tonight against Edmonton.
Winnipeg will start the playoffs on the road against either the Anaheim Ducks or St. Louis Blues, who each have 107 points in the race for the top seed in the West. St. Louis hosts Minnesota in the afternoon, while the Ducks visit Arizona tonight.
Ondrej Pavelec helped carry the Jets into the playoffs by posting shutouts in each the club's previous three games. He earned victories Monday in Minnesota and the following night in St. Louis before taking the shootout loss in Thursday's 1-0 setback at Colorado.
Pavelec, who started the last seven games, has set a franchise record with his shutout streak of 187 minutes, 5 seconds. He will get a rest today in favor of backup Michael Hutchinson.
Although the franchise is back in the playoffs for the first time in eight years, the city of Winnipeg hasn't tasted postseason hockey since 1996 when the original Jets lost in the opening round against Detroit. The previous incarnation of the Jets left Winnipeg for Arizona following the 1995-96 season and became the Phoenix Coyotes.
"The way we've playing lately, the wins we've strung together and the way we've been pushing, we were due to get some help," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said of clinching a playoff spot. "I can't tell you the amount of work that guys have put in that have been here since Day 1. We have a group of guys that have withstood the ups and downs. There have been both."
The Jets close the regular season at home after gaining five of a possible six points on their recent three-game road trip despite playing the entire swing without star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien is due back tonight after completing a four-game suspension for cross-checking J.T. Miller of the New York Rangers on March 31.
Jets forward Mathieu Perreault will miss Saturday's game, however, after suffering a leg injury in Thursday's contest. Perreault's status for the start of the playoffs is unknown. He has 18 goals and 23 assists in 62 games this season.
The Flames halted a five-season playoff drought with Thursday's win over the Kings. Thanks to 33 saves from Jonas Hiller, the Flames punched their ticket to the postseason with the 3-1 win. Calgary is in the postseason for the first time since 2009 season.
Jiri Hudler posted two goals and an assist while Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who have won five of their last six.
"That's the most noise I have heard playing in a hockey game," said Gaudreau. "This is a really exciting night."
With Karri Ramo still out with a lower-body injury, Hiller could get the start again tonight. If Calgary coach Bob Harley chooses to give Hiller rest then Joni Ortio will take the crease. Ortio was recalled from Adirondack of the AHL on Thursday.
The Flames have won two straight and six of the last eight meetings in this series. Calgary also has claimed the last three road encounters.