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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, February 27th (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (27-21-10) at Winnipeg Jets (28-26-6), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Winnipeg Jets have thrived under Paul Maurice despite injury limiting Evander Kane to just four games under the new head coach.

Kane is expected to return to the lineup on Thursday night when the Jets face the Phoenix Coyotes.

Winnipeg has gone 9-3-1 in 13 games since replacing Claude Noel with Maurice, who made his coaching debut with the club in a 5-1 win over the Coyotes on Jan. 13. Ondrej Pavelec made 18 saves and the Jets got goals from five different players to beat the Coyotes for a second straight time following a six-game series losing streak.

The Jets have also won both of their meetings at home versus the Coyotes since relocating from Atlanta.

Coincidentally, the Coyotes franchise used to call Winnipeg home before moving to Phoenix prior to the 1996-97 season.

The current Jets have endured just one losing streak under Noel, a current two-game slide that includes a shootout setback to St. Louis in the final game before the Olympic break.

Kane missed the last six games with a hand infection and has been limited to just four games since Jan. 7 due to injury. He has 15 goals and 29 points in 42 games this season.

The fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft is likely to skate on a line tonight with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

"I want him to play his game in our framework," Maurice said of what he wants to see out of Kane. "That's what I'm asking from everybody. Keep the individual things that make you special, just fly in formation, especially when we don't have the puck."

The Jets come in with 62 points, two fewer than the Coyotes, who trail the Vancouver Canucks by just one point for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Phoenix also is six points behind Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division.

Consistency has been an issue for the Coyotes, who lost their final game before the Olympic break and are 4-5-1 since last winning back-to-back games on Jan. 16 and 18.

Phoenix returns five players to its roster who competed in the Sochi Olympics, including goaltender Mike Smith, who won a gold medal with Team Canada even though he did not get into a game during the tournament.

"I knew going over there that there'd be a good possibility that I wouldn't get into a game," Smith told Phoenix's website. "I was just doing everything I could to be a part of the team and kind of keep the dressing room light and get to know a lot of the guys I play against (in the NHL)."

Like the Coyotes, Smith has had an up-and-down season, going 20-17-9 with a 2.77 goals against average and .913 save percentage.

Smith yielded all five goals on 38 shots in the earlier loss to the Jets, falling to 7-6-0 with a 2.53 GAA against the franchise.

Pavelec is 2-1-1 in his career versus the Coyotes, posting a 1.73 GAA.

02/27 10:43:45 ET