January 03, 2015

The Winnipeg Jets continue to have trouble slowing their opponents down, and that's making it difficult to build any momentum.

Winnipeg is returning home after a much-needed break, however, and can win the season series with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third time in four years Wednesday night.

The Jets (11-12-2) have allowed 3.7 goals per game while going a league-worst 3-8-1 since Nov. 5. They lost 5-3 at Colorado on Saturday to close a three-game trip, already the 12th time they've surrendered four or more goals. They're 1-10-1 in those games.

Winnipeg has been idle since that night, a welcomed three days off for a club which is struggling and has played 11 of its past 15 games on the road.

"It's important to take that mental break away from the game, especially when things aren't going right," center Bryan Little told the team's official website. "It's good to get away and not have hockey on your mind all the time. It's good to get some rest and some practice days to actually work on some stuff.

"We're just happy to be home and we're trying to re-focus right now."

Winnipeg's 10 home games played are tied for the league's fewest.

In 14 games during November, the Jets went 4 for 45 on the power play while giving up 15 goals in their opponents' 56 chances (26.8 percent).

"The fatigue sets in for everybody," coach Paul Maurice said. "Everybody's got their stretches. We went through ours, didn't get great results, so we've got lots of places to get better."

Andrew Ladd, though, has come to life with two goals and two assists in his last four games following a four-game point drought. He scored Saturday as did Blake Wheeler, who tied Little for the team lead with his ninth goal.

Wheeler has keyed the Jets dominating this series of late, totaling five goals and six assists in the last seven meetings as they've gone 6-0-1. That stretch includes a 4-2 road victory Nov. 4.

Toronto (8-11-5) ended a three-game losing streak in a 3-0 home win over Edmonton on Monday. With James Reimer out with a lower-body injury and Jonathan Bernier struggling, Garret Sparks was called up from the club's AHL affiliate and recorded 24 saves, becoming the franchise's first player with a shutout in his debut.

"Going into the third period (a shutout) is definitely on your mind," Sparks said. "You just want to be on and make sure if they're going to beat you they have to really beat you. The guys in front of me kept everything outside, kept it manageable and I have them to thank."

Coach Mike Babcock said he expects Sparks to get the nod again Wednesday unless Reimer can play.

"Good for the kid," Babcock said. "Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence. He played well, we got a win."

Leo Komarov scored twice, giving him four goals in his last three games and a team-high 10 on the season. Second-leading scorer Joffrey Lupul, who has eight goals, missed his first game due to an undisclosed injury.

Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (lower-body) is expected to miss a fifth consecutive game. Michael Hutchinson has struggled in three starts with Pavelec sidelined, giving up 12 goals. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 14 shots in a 3-1 win at Minnesota on Friday in his debut.

Little has five goals and 15 assists in his last 14 meetings with Toronto.

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