WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Winnipeg Jets hope a little bit of Dale Hawerchuk's magic will rub off on the new generation Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place against the Arizona Coyotes.
Arguably the NHL's No. 3 player in the 1980s -- trailing Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux -- the man known as "Ducky" for Jets 1.0 will be enshrined into the new team's Hall of Fame. He joins Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson from the Jets' WHA days - collectively "the Hot Line" - who were inducted in the inaugural class last year.
Hawerchuk amassed 518 goals and 819 assists during a 17-year career, including nine with the Jets. He has already been honored by the Coyotes -- the original Jets who relocated to the Arizona desert in 1996 - who retired his No. 10 sweater a decade ago, even though he never played a game for the team.
The modern-day Jets are riding high with points in nine of their past 10 games, including a 4-1 road victory over the Coyotes on Saturday. The streak was enough for Canadian all-sports station TSN to bump them up to No. 3 in its weekly ranking of all 31 teams.
Winger Patrik Laine is heating up just days after lamenting his early-season struggles. The Finnish phenom has goals in five consecutive games and nine on the season.
But probably nobody is more relieved than goalie Steve Mason. The high-profile free agent signing from last summer finally won his first game of the season on Saturday. He still has a goals against average of 3.76 and a save percentage of .892 in five starts, but considering his early-season performance, he is definitely moving in the right direction.
"When you don't play a lot, sometimes it's tough to keep that motivation, but I've been doing a pretty good job of staying positive and having fun with the guys," Mason told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's just nice to finally walk away from a game with a good feeling. It's been a long time coming, basically since the end of last season."
The Coyotes come to town with a 2-14-3 record and are in danger of being officially eliminated from the playoff race before Thanksgiving, maybe Christmas. Coach Rick Tocchet wasn't discouraged after the weekend, however, telling a media scrum after practice Monday that he liked his team's effort. The difference was the Jets buried their chances in the third period, scoring three times, and his charges didn't.
"We were in good shape after the second period, we didn't give them much," he said. "I think they had 11 shots on goal with three or four minutes left in the second. They've got some high-end guys and they put it in the net in the third."
No changes are planned strategy-wise for the second game in the rare back-to-back series but Tocchet said he'll likely juggle his lines.
"We've just got to find some guys who can make some plays when it's crunch time, he said.
The Coyotes received some sad news when it was announced that former co-owner George Gosbee died suddenly at age 48 on Sunday.