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The Winnipeg Jets would not be the choice of opponent for any NHL team looking to end a losing string this season.

But the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have lost two game in a row after a fast start, have the task of facing the battle-tested Jets in a home-and-home tussle that begins in Winnipeg on Wednesday night and moves to Toronto on Saturday.

“In this dressing room we’re giving them the respect they deserve – but not too much respect,” Leafs centre Nazem Kadri said after practice in Toronto on Tuesday about the first encounter in the Winnipeg two-step.

“We still feel like we can go into that building and beat them. But we know it’s not going to be easy.”

Kadri, a 32-goal scorer a year ago, has been held goalless in Toronto’s nine games.

“I’ve said this all along, it’s more frustrating just being able to go out there and maybe not be a factor in the game,” said Kadri, a solid two-way performer whose dogged persistence on the ice often lands him the job of shadowing an opposing team’s top centre.

“And when you’re getting opportunities and getting scoring chances and hitting multiple posts on a consistent basis, that’s just puck luck,” he said. “That’s going to turn eventually.”

After ripping off six wins in their first seven games with a truly impressive offence, the Leafs have hit their season’s first speed bump, losing two games at home.

The first face slap was administered by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who skated to a 3-0 victory a week ago. That was followed up by an equally authoritative 4-1 win by the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

In both instances, the opponents were able to slice away large swaths of the ice from the likes of Auston Matthews and John Tavares, Toronto’s top goal scorers, through tough fore-checking.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock stressed better positioning for players without the puck during Tuesday’s practice, to try to make it easier for passes to get through to the intended targets.

“It [the offence] dries up for a number of reasons and I think when it’s work ethic or detail in our game, those are things you can fix,” Babcock said. “Other times, teams play good against you and take it away. And I don’t think you ever want to discredit the other team. I think our last two opponents have played real well against us, but I don’t think we’ve been as good.

“Last practice it was more about work, today was more about being in the right spot so we can generate more offence.”

The Jets will present another formidable foe for the Leafs, especially playing at home at Bell MTS Place where they have yet to lose a game in six outings.

Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime victory over St. Louis was Winnipeg’s third win in a row. The Jets are 6-2-1, the Leafs are 6-3.

The Jets finished with the second-best record in the NHL last season with 114 points and enjoyed an energetic romp through the playoffs before losing in the Western Conference final to the Vegas Golden Knights.

They are seen as a legitimate threat for the Stanley Cup this season, as are the Leafs, whose already talented lineup was bolstered in the off-season by the free-agent acquisition of Tavares.

It is an all-Canadian rivalry that is likely to heat up between two teams who believe they can both win it all.

While the Leafs are led by Matthews, the Jets have their own offensive star in Patrik Laine, who was the second player selected in the 2016 NHL draft – behind Matthews.

“There’s a bit of a rivalry there with two young Canadian teams that are talked about a lot,” Jets winger Bryan Little told reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday. “They have a really good team and we have a really good team. It should be a good game. It’s one we definitely look forward to every year.

“People are going to pay attention to this game. There is a lot of chatter between Leafs fans and Jets fans and a lot of bragging rights.”

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