After a keystone cops performance at the MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Jets will be looking to redeem themselves against what‘s supposed to be an up and coming divisional rival in the Minnesota Wild. The Wild - after dropping two in overtime at home and a third on the road - are still looking to establish themselves as a force in the Central division. A rebound game is in the cards for both teams, one will regain momentum and one will be left searching for answers. Either way fans on both sides should be in for a good game.
After showing some promise against teams that were willing to participate in an end to end track meet, the Jets looked lost against Anaheim’s defensive style. Claude Noels high flying team continually seemed stymied by the trap and the frustration became apparent as the Jets completely imploded in the third period. The Jets will have to figure out how to get through a plugged up neutral zone and quickly if they hope to have success in the west.
Keys to the game
Keep it together: Winnipeg is going to have to try and go back to what worked. Claude Noel has to avoid his penchant for line juggling at the first sign of trouble and show some faith in the combinations that worked in the first two games of the season. This group is showing early signs of coming together; don’t interrupt that even if the world is ending.
Stay Out of The Box: Stupid penalties are going to be extra painful against the Wild. The power play has been especially promising for the Wild, enhanced by an assortment of offensive weapons. While Winnipeg’s penalty kill has shown signs of improvement, it’s still lukewarm at best.
Don’t Play Defense: Shocking thing to say? Not really, the Jets are so awful in their own end they should just stay out of it as much as humanly possible. Puck possession is the key, get the puck and keep it in the other end. When they’re not doing that they need to tempt the opposition into a high tempo, high transition game. Until they can come up with something that resembles a defensive system, trading chances, although dangerous, is better than being on the wrong end of "keep away" in your own zone.
Pavelec: Love him or hate him, he’s the biggest key. The Jets WILL give up lots of quality chances, how Ondrej Pavelec reacts is how the game will go for the Jets.
Goalies: The Wild’s number one Nicklas Backstrom is still shaking off some rust and not looking terribly confident. He also got slammed into a goal post on Tuesday and was forced to leave the game. If he plays he needs to find his game - and quick - or the young stars of the Winnipeg Jets are going to give him a red light sunburn. If Backstrom remains out, It'll be hero or zero time for Harding. He'll be thrown into the desperate situation of trying to secure the first win at home after three disappointing losses.
Play Defense: The Wild can’t get tempted into a run and gun game even though they themselves have a strong assortment of offensive weapons. They need to play a patient game with the Jets and draw them into penalty trouble, then let the power play go to work. Down tempo the game, stymie the Jets breakout and wait for the right moment to strike.
The Story Behind the Story
Some Jets fans seem to have lost their patience with Claude Noel. It’ll be interesting to see if the criticism is well founded. How will Mark Scheifele and Devin Setoguchi react to their lack of ice time in the last game? Will Zach Bogosian come out with a new determination after pulling a "Steve Smith" against the ducks or will the embarrassing move haunt him over the next few games? Will the new fan whipping boy James Wright continue to inexplicably see more ice time? Can young Jacob Trouba continue to impress and earn big minutes?
On the other side of the ice will the Wild use desperation and the home crowd to their advantage or will they continue struggle? In the bigger picture would a potential fourth loss, huge salary commitments and wavering attendance affect the clubs stability?
Stay tuned Jets fans, there will be a lot to look for in Thursday’s game and perhaps a night outside of Winnipeg is just what the doctor ordered after leaving the ice in shame against the Ducks. For the Wild it’ll be all about getting something going, for the Jets it’ll be about finding what they lost Sunday night.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Zach Parise because he has a stupid name.