Winnipeg Jets fans are still waiting for the first appearance of Sidney Crosby on MTS Centre ice, but any disappointment will be quickly forgotten on Friday if the Manitoba club delivers the kind of effort it did the previous night.
The Jets get a second visit this season from Pittsburgh in their final game before the Christmas break. The first meeting was memorable, a 2-1 result on Oct. 17 that marked Winnipeg's inaugural home regular season win in its return to the NHL.
Should they prevail over the Pens again, the Jets can improve their December record of 8-2-1 as they head into the break. Since being pasted by Detroit two weeks ago, the team has won three of five, with a loss in the shootout and the other defeat coming late in the third period.
The Jets on Thursday night took advantage of a visiting Montreal in dire straits, drubbing the Canadiens 4-0.
Blake Wheeler scored twice and added an assist, while Ondrej Pavelec stopped 27 shots for his third shutout of the season and also registered an assist. Winnipeg also got goals from depth forwards Tanner Glass and Tim Stapleton.
Pavelec is 5-2-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average in December, surrendering two goals or fewer in all but one of his eight starts.
"He looked solid. Like he was really in control," coach Claude Noel said. "It was nice to see him play like that, but he's been playing like that more than just tonight."
About the worst thing you can say of the Jets of late is that players other than Wheeler will need to score on the man advantage soon, as he's accounted for both of the team's power-play goals over the last six games.
Malkin on a streak
Despite the absence of Crosby due to a concussion, the Penguins have netted 22 goals in winning three of their past four.
There is no NHL player hotter right now than Evgeni Malkin, who has six goals and nine assists in a six-game point streak.
"He is definitely demanding the puck right now," said linemate Chris Kunitz. "He wants to make plays, and he is having success. He is just a dominating player when he wants the puck."
Pittsburgh (19-11-4) is coming off a 3-2 win Tuesday over league-leading Chicago, with all goals set up by the Russian. The Pens had a 3-0 lead at the end of two against the Blackhawks, then had to survive an onslaught to get two points after being outshot 19-4 in the final period.
James Neal scored his team-high 19th goal while blue-liner Matt Niskanen had two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves in net.
Pittsburgh will be without defenceman Deryk Engelland for the next three games, as he was suspended Thursday for hitting Chicago forward Marcus Kruger in the head.
The Jets return to action on Dec. 27 in Colorado.
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