What’s faster, a Jet or a Panther?

Hot off their second straight win last night, beating the Los Angeles Kings in overtime, the Winnipeg Jets have never been closer to having a top-three spot in the Eastern Conference, despite currently being in seventh spot.

The Jets are currently looking up at the New Jersey Devils (41 pts), Pittsburgh Penguins (46 pts), Philadelphia Flyers (48 pts), and Florida Panthers (45 pts).  But the only team Winnipeg needs to catch up to secure a playoff spot is the Panthers, who lead the Jets by only four points.

While both the Penguins and Flyers lead the Panthers in points, the Panthers sit pretty in third place simply for being at the top of the Southeast Division.  Just besting the Panthers in points, an attainable goal, would guarantee a top-three spot in the Eastern Conference for the Winnipeg team.

While the Jets got off to a rocky start under brand new management and coaching staff, the squad seems to only be improving with every passing game, and young talents like Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov and Ondrej Pavelec are laying a solid foundation for future seasons.

In the month of December, the Winnipeg Jets have won nine of 13 games played, and can improve that to 10 with a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year’s Eve.  In a strange twist of fate that saw the Jets win and Leafs lose in overtime last night, the two teams’ records have drawn completely even at 18-14-5 for both, setting the stage for a thrilling classic to close out 2011.

The two teams have only met once so far this season, back on October 19, and the Jets gave up a 3-1 lead to fall 4-3 in a shootout in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.  This time, the Leafs will be in the MTS Centre, facing a much more comfortable and improved Winnipeg squad. Toronto will be looking to leapfrog the Jets into a more secure playoff spot, and the Jets will be feverishly trying to hang on to a playoff spot of their own now that they finally have it.

Puck drops at 6:00 p.m. CT on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.  Go, Jets, go!

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