On the back of some hot play by Ondrej Pavelec, the Winnipeg Jets head into Minnesota tonight, looking to pick up their fifth consecutive win. The Jets, suddenly above .500 at 10-9-2, look to keep the streak going. Meanwhile, the Wild are an impressive 12-4-4 this season, including a 9-1-2 home record, and will be looking to extend their own winning streak to four games.
Keys to the Game
- All-about-Ondrej: As Ondrej Pavelec goes, so do the Winnipeg Jets, and after a pretty poor first month of the season Ondrej Pavelec has been playing some great hockey lately. Pavelec has reeled off four consecutive wins and a combined .947 SV% in that span. Is that a sign that Pavelec has turned the corner, or just a random hot streak? I tend to lean towards the latter, but if Pavelec can keep rolling like that, the Jets stand a good chance of winning.
- Balanced scoring: After relying on the big guns through the first six weeks of the season, the rest of the team is finally chipping in. Knock on wood, because Olli Jokinen has 6 points in his last give games (including an impressive 16 shots on goal);Bryan Little has 5 points in that span. Grant Clitsome has 3. And last but not least, Dustin Byfuglien has finally scored, with 3 goals and 5 points over the same span. Hell, the power play even clicked twice last game. The Jets have a handful of ways to score goals, but for the most part haven't displayed all of them so far this season. With contributions from the defense and power play, the Jets are a much more dangerous team than they've shown.
- Stay out of the box: The Winnipeg Jets have been shorthanded more times than any other team in the NHL coming into tonight's game, and have been shorthanded a whopping 48% more than the league's least penalized team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it's tough to win when you play eight minutes a night killing penalties.
- Hard to beat Harding: Josh Harding's play has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Harding's been flying pretty high so far this season to the tune of a .945 SV% and 1.26 GAA. Can he keep it up? Or is Harding about to come down from cruising altitude for a rough landing?
- Play the matchups: Jets' coach Claude Noel seemingly has a tendency to put his team in some tough spots matchup-wise, and with home ice advantage and the last change, the Wild should be able to get their top line some favourable matchups against the bottom half of the Jets' lineup.
- Secondary contributions: The Wild are an extremely top-heavy team; their top forwards - Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikko Koivu - have accounted for 24 of the team's 51 goals scored this season, and their top defender, Ryan Suter, is averaging an incredible 29:35 of ice time per game (including 35+ minutes in three of their last four games)! If the Jets can keep the Wild's top line in check - or better yet, off the ice - they should have an easy go of it. On the other hand, if the Wild get major contributions from some of their depth players, they'll be awfully tough to contain.
Player to boo mercilessly
Josh Harding. Without him, this whole house of cards comes toppling down.