WINNIPEG, Manitoba — With the way the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers have been playing lately, there’s a very good chance the 1980s could break out at Bell MTS Place Thursday night.
All that will be missing will be the classic battles between Wayne Gretzky and Dale Hawerchuk.
The Jets have won six of their last seven games, including a 6-3 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, a game in which they took a 4-0 lead, let up on the gas temporarily and then finished off the win with an empty-net marker. They have scored 13 goals in the past two games, including none from sniper Patrik Laine.
At one point late in the first period, the Jets led the Blackhawks 14-0 in shots.
The Oilers, meanwhile, come to town having won seven of their last eight games, including an impressive 6-4 road victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. They have also been lighting the lamp in ’80s fashion of late, including seven times in a victory over Minnesota last week.
Perhaps most importantly, they are an impressive 8-2-1 since Ken Hitchcock assumed the reins behind the bench last month from Todd McLellan.
The 66-year-old Hitchcock, who was coaxed out of retirement by the Oilers, is happy with his team’s turnaround — they’re in the thick of the Western Conference’s wild-card race just a couple of weeks after sitting near the cellar of the Pacific Division — but he’s still not satisfied.
“We’re going to need more contributions from more people if we expect to be a playoff team,” he said following Tuesday’s game. “We’re going to push in that direction.”
And the Jets are going to push back, particularly when other teams end up in the penalty box.
They have struck gold six times in the last two games with the man advantage, improving their efficiency to 30.3 percent, and reestablishing it as the top power play in the league. In fact, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien’s power-play marker in the first period came just five seconds into the man advantage, the fourth time this season the Jets have needed less than nine seconds to make their opponents pay.
The center of the No. 1 unit, Mark Scheifele, said he has every intention of keeping the good times rolling.
“We know we have a good power play. It’s just a matter of executing, and lately, we’ve been executing. We just have to keep focusing on those fine details,” he said in a postgame scrum.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice didn’t think his team sat back as the Blackhawks narrowed the deficit on Tuesday, briefly trimming the lead to 4-3 before the Jets scored one of their power-play markers.
“I’m not expecting it to be 12-0 by the end of the game,” he said. “When you have the number of Stanley Cup rings that they have in that room, they’re going to come out and push hard.
“When it’s 4-3, anything can happen. Every single shot that goes to the net either way. But (Blackhawks goalie) Cam Ward made two or three great saves at the end of the second period and a couple more. And we missed the net on a bunch. I didn’t feel the game changed nearly as much as it felt on the shot clock or the scoreboard.”