The Winnipeg Jets nailed down a playoff spot for just the second time since relocating from Atlanta in 2011, but their work isn't done.
Next up on the agenda is locking up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and possibly the second. They can take a big step toward that by extending their five-game winning streak. Standing in their way is none other than the third-best team in the NHL -- the Boston Bruins.
The Jets are virtually assured of finishing second in the Central Division, but after their exhilarating 5-4 shootout victory over Nashville on Sunday, they've got a franchise-high 102 points and are just five points behind the suddenly struggling Predators. Nashville has lost three straight games on the heels of an impressive 10-game winning streak.
"You have no idea (how satisfying it is making the playoffs)," captain Blake Wheeler told The Winnipeg Free Press. "The worst part of (past years) has been having to watch these games that mean a lot, both coming down the stretch and into the playoffs. That stung and, unfortunately, we have watched a lot of it. (We've) just been biding our time for our opportunity."
Wheeler, who scored his 20th goal of the season against Nashville, giving the Jets five players to have reached that milestone, is the NHL's assists co-leader with 65.
Many prognosticators believe the Jets and Predators will meet in the second round of the playoffs. If their regular-season games are any indication, it could be a memorable battle. The Predators won three of five contests and the two teams combined for 41 goals.
While Patrik Laine has cooled off the last few games after blocking a slapshot off his skate against Los Angeles last week -- he's still second in the race for the Rocket Richard trophy with 43 goals -- rookie winger Kyle Connor has picked up the slack. After scoring four goals -- including back-to-back overtime winners -- and two assists in three games, he was named the NHL's third star of the week.
The Bruins come to town after defeating Minnesota 2-1 in overtime on Sunday and sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Division with 104 points, trailing just the Tampa Bay Lightning with 106, but with a game in hand. Super pest Brad Marchand sniped the winning goal just 28 seconds into the extra period for his 33rd of the season.
Defenseman Torey Krug said he saw that Marchand had a step on his man, so he bounced a pass off the boards and let him go to work.
"He wants to be the guy," Krug told The Boston Globe. "He's got that edge to him. (He) wins a lot of 50-50 pucks, and when you are three-on-three on the ice and he is winning those battles, it is going to lead to a chance for your team."
Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba, who has been out for a week since suffering a concussion against Dallas, has been cleared to resume practicing with a no-contact jersey.