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Winnipeg Jets prepared to battle Dallas Stars, top spot in the Central on the line

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on Dallas Stars' Mason Marchment (27) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday November 28, 2023. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press) Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) makes a save on Dallas Stars' Mason Marchment (27) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday November 28, 2023. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press)
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On the score sheet, the Winnipeg Jets have come out on top in four straight games.

However, that doesn’t mean the team has been happy with their play in parts of those games.

“Regardless of who we’re playing tonight, we’ve got to clean things up,” said Head Coach Rick Bowness. “We’re spending too much unnecessary time in our zone because we’re not getting pucks out on the boards and we’re turning pucks over at their blue line. We just played four non-playoff teams and we got away with it. We’re not going to get away with it against elite hockey teams.”

One of those elite teams is the Jets' opponent Thursday night. The Dallas Stars are fighting Winnipeg for the top spot in the Central Division – both teams are tied with 79 points but the Jets have four games in hand.

“They’re incredibly dangerous on the rush, they’re getting some great offence. That kid (Thomas) Harley, he’s up in the play a lot, you know Miro (Heiskanen) is coming. So they’re a tough team to defend. They got a great young goaltender in Jake (Oettinger). So this is a legitimate elite team.”

To beat elite teams, the Jets have to play elite hockey, something that happened earlier in February against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Jets were able to beat Vancouver 4-2 and dictated play for most of the game.

“We need all four lines going and all the D going. Everyone’s got to bring their A-game. You’re playing these elite teams. You don’t get away with bad shifts and bad puck management and not winning battles. We did all those things in Vancouver and we’re going to have to do that again here tonight.”

Winnipeg has had plenty of success against the Central Division going 16-3-1 this season. But their kryptonite has been the Dallas Stars.

Dallas won the previous two matchups this season and in the last 10 games between these two, Winnipeg has only come out on top three times.

“This is a big game. A big win here can set us up for the rest of the season and give us that confidence. We’re all really excited about the battle and all dialled in,” said Jets defenceman Dylan Samberg.

“You always want to win the divisional games to make sure you’re in that, kind of, top spot, the top three. That’s something, which we know we want to be in, and games like tonight, it gives us an idea of how good of a team we can be,” said Jets forward Nino Niederreiter.

It will be Connor Hellebuyck getting the start for Winnipeg.

Puck drop from American Airlines Center in Dallas is at 7 p.m. CT.

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