NHL

Jets-Coyotes Preview

The Winnipeg Jets haven't been in top form lately, and games against Pacific Division opponents have been a struggle all season.

They begin a three-game trip against the division Thursday night, and the competition figures to gradually build from Arizona to Los Angeles to Anaheim.

The Coyotes (15-20-4) haven't presented much of a problem for the Jets (20-13-7), who have won five straight in the series while allowing six goals, including a season-opening 6-2 victory in Arizona on Oct. 9. The rest of the Pacific, though, has handed Winnipeg a 1-5-1 record.

That includes Monday's 3-2 home loss to San Jose for the Jets' third defeat in four games. They fell behind three times and evened the score twice, but the Sharks scored in the closing seconds of the third period.

The Jets are winless in 13 games in which they've trailed after two, and their 26 third-period goals are more than only Arizona (24).

"We're not holding back," coach Paul Maurice said. "I liked our third period as much as any part of our game. I don't think we can open up our game more to generate more."

The offense came from Jay Harrison and Andrew Ladd, who has four goals and five assists in the last six games.

"We'll take a moment and we'll fix what's wrong and (figure out) how we can build towards playing that 60-minute game," Harrison told the team's official website. "You've got to have a short memory. We play a lot of hockey games and there's certainly a lot of hockey left."

Both goals came on the power play, where Winnipeg is 6 of 15 over four games, while Arizona's penalty kill is 5 for 10 over three games.

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little assisted on Ladd's goal. Wheeler has seven points on a six-game streak, and Little has 10 during a seven-game run. Both scored twice in the opener against Arizona and Wheeler added an assist. Little has four goals and two assists on a five-game point streak in the series.

Arizona is playing the third of six straight at home, where it had won four in a row before Tuesday's 6-0 loss to St. Louis. It was the Coyotes' second 6-0 defeat in three games.

Mike Smith allowed all six goals on 39 shots against the Blues and has a 4.85 goals-against average over a 1-5-0 span, but his coach labeled the loss a defensive disaster.

"That's not a goaltender problem, that's a people in front of him problem," Dave Tippett said. ''That's a look in the mirror issue and see where we're at."

Smith has dropped four straight to the Jets with a 3.45 GAA.

Ondrej Pavelec will start for Winnipeg after Michael Hutchinson played the first two games of the new year. Pavelec has a 3.14 GAA over a 1-1-3 span, though he's been in goal for each of the Jets' wins in the series streak with a 1.16 GAA.

In front of Pavelec, Winnipeg's banged-up blue line could be getting some help.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian may return from a 14-game absence due to a lower-body injury. Grant Clitsome (upper body) will miss the trip, while fellow defensemen Tobias Enstrom and Mark Stuart have been out with lower-body injuries. Forward Evander Kane (lower body) has been out four games and is also nearing a return.

Arizona center Martin Hanzal missed the St. Louis game with an upper-body injury, and his status is uncertain.

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