November 22, 2014

Divisional play took on more importance when the NHL trimmed from six groups to four and restructured its postseason format to again be based heavily on divisional standings.

The Winnipeg Jets made a run to the playoffs last season in part because of a solid record against the Central, but that hasn't been the case this year.

A chance to pick up a rare divisional win presents itself Tuesday night when the Jets host the slumping St. Louis Blues.

Winnipeg (14-14-2) earned the Western Conference's second wild card and was the last of five Central teams to qualify for the 2014-15 postseason while posting a 16-8-5 mark against its division rivals. The Jets haven't had that type of success this year, though, going 3-9-0 against the Central, including three straight defeats.

The last two have come at the hands of defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which beat the Jets 2-0 on Friday. It marked the first time Winnipeg had been shut out since losing 7-0 to Nashville on Nov. 14.

"You want to have a good record in your own division, but there's not much we can do about the start (now)," captain Andrew Ladd told the team's official website. "We need to put a stretch of wins together and get back above the line, that's our biggest focus.

"Lately our game is back to where it needs to be, so I'm not too worried about it."

The Jets have lost both meetings this season and nine of the last 11 against St. Louis (17-10-4), which is having trouble finding consistency. It dropped to 2-4-1 this month with Sunday's 3-1 loss to Colorado.

The Blues outshot the Avalanche 43-18 and set a season high for shots, but managed only Vladimir Tarasenko's power-play goal with just over seven minutes remaining.

"I think it's one of those games when you're down 2-0 and you just start pouring it on and they sat back a little bit and we took it to them," center Paul Stastny said. "For us, it's more about the way we started that game. We almost had to try and find a way to get that first one and then play our game the way we wanted to, but we got behind early."

The biggest positive for the Blues lately has been their penalty kill, which has snuffed out all 19 power plays over the last eight. That unit ranks first in the league with an 87.7 percent kill rate.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice might give St. Louis' offensive attack a different look in this matchup. He shuffled his defensive pairings during Monday's practice by moving Jacob Trouba alongside Dustin Byfuglien, a duo that saw a small amount of time together against Chicago.

"It's an interesting dynamic to have a one-time shot with a guy that can move the puck as well as Buff does," Maurice said. "We know that Jake's had that ability. It has more to do with who they'll match up (against) and who they'll play behind."

Rookie Connor Hellebuyck could be in net again with Ondrej Pavelec out for at least the rest of the month with a knee sprain. Hellebuyck is 4-1-0 with a 1.79 goals-against average after making 29 saves against the Blackhawks.

Jake Allen has started four of the last five for the Blues. He has a 1.68 GAA while winning two of his three career starts against the Jets, including a 3-2 win Nov. 16.

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