The Winnipeg Jets are treating the end of December as a fresh start, and one of their youngest players is in the middle of the turnaround.
Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck looks to continue his hot stretch as the rejuvenated Jets seek their first three-game winning streak when they visit the Arizona Coyotes on New Year's Eve.
Winnipeg (17-17-2) opened the season 7-3-1 in October but is just 10-14-1 since, slumping into the Christmas break with losses in four of five games. But a 101:10 shutout streak from their 22-year-old netminder this week helped the Jets to home wins over Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Hellebuyck logged his first career shutout in Sunday's 1-0 win over the Penguins and he didn't allow a goal in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Red Wings until early in the third period. He improved to 7-3-0 this season while lowering his goals-against average to 2.01.
More importantly, Hellebuyck helped the Jets to their first winning streak since the opening week of December.
"We had some nights going into the Christmas break that we played really well and didn't have a good result and that takes it toll," coach Paul Maurice said. "They get to feel good, a little better every day and a little more optimistic. We're keeping that faith."
Jacob Trouba scored two goals in Tuesday's win as the Jets tallied more than one for the first time in four games. Winnipeg's offense was inconsistent entering the break, scoring an average of 1.2 goals in its last five losses compared to 4.8 in its last four wins.
"That left a bad taste in our mouth over the Christmas break," Winnipeg's leading scorer Blake Wheeler told the team's official website. "... and that allowed us to come back even hungrier."
Next, the Jets will see if they can sustain success away from home. They open an eight-day, five-game road trip on Thursday, looking to end of a five-game road losing streak. Winnipeg has lost 11 of its last 12 as visitor, the final 10 losses coming in regulation.
Winnipeg's offense will draw a favorable matchup against another young goaltender trying to settle an awful stretch of defense for Arizona (17-16-3). Second-year netminder Louis Domingue has a 4.21 GAA while suffering both of the Coyotes' losses in three game since the Christmas break.
Anders Lindback surrendered three goals on five shots in the first period of Tuesday's 7-5 loss to Chicago, and Domingue allowed three more on 22 shots after coming on in relief. It was the second game in less than two weeks that the Coyotes have given up seven goals, and they have allowed at least five in seven of their last 13 games.
Arizona is tied with Calgary for the worst defense in the league with a 3.22 GAA, and that number rises to 3.92 since the beginning of December.
The Blackhawks scored on three of four power-play opportunities, pushing opponents to 7 of 15 against Arizona's penalty kill in the last four games.
''We need saves. Your goaltending is a big part of your penalty kill,'' coach Dave Tippett said. ''It shows us just how far we've got to go.''
Shane Doan tallied a hat trick against Chicago, tying Dale Hawerchuk for the franchise record with 379 career goals. Doan scored seven goals in 74 games with Winnipeg during his 1995-96 rookie season.
The Jets' seventh win in the last eight games of this series was a 3-2 victory on Nov. 21 in Winnipeg.