Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,Healthy, free, the world before me,The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.- Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
And so it begins.
The Winnipeg Jets kick off their longest road trip of the season tonight, the first game in a stretch that will see the Jets play six road games in a row. To get things started, the Jets head into Newark to take on the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils come into this game with a 9-9-5 record on the season, good for 4th place in the Metropolitan Division and 9th in the Eastern Conference. The Jets, meanwhile, sit 10-11-4, last in the Central Division and 12th in the Western Conference. The Jets have been good of late though, having picked up at least one point in 7 of their last 10 games.
The Devils' two-headed monster in net makes it difficult to gauge this one, but it appears that Martin Brodeur will get the start in goal for the Devils. Claude Noel and the Jets will counter with Ondrej Pavelec.
Update: For those who haven't yet heard, Jacob Trouba has been activated from the team's injured reserve list and may return to the Jets' lineup tonight.
Keys to the Game - Winnipeg Jets
- Stay out of the box - The Winnipeg Jets continue to lead the entire NHL in time spent on the penalty kill. Dustin Byfuglien continues to lead the NHL in minor penalties and Evander Kane is holding down a spot in the top 10 as well. Playing with your best players sitting in the penalty box is no way to win hockey games. The Jets need to stop taking penalties, plain and simple.
- Get Kane Going - Speaking of Kane, the Jets forward hasn't scored a goal since October 26th, a streak that's up to 11 games now. Kane is one of this team's top goal scorers, and they need him to get back to being that player. They're simply treading water without him.
- Start Strong - I'm not much of a "momentum" type of guy, but I do believe that a strong starts generally lead to confidence and positive vibes. The Jets pounced on the Minnesota Wild early and often, setting the tone for the entire first half of the game. They'll be in pretty good shape if they can do the same thing tonight.
Keys to the Game - New Jersey Devils
- Pre-Game Drink: Elixir from Philosopher's Stone - The season is still young, but the Devils sure aren't. New Jersey's leading scorers this season are soon-to-be-42-year-old Jaromir Jagr, Marek Zidlicky (nearly 37) and Patrik Elias (nearly 38), and Dainius Zubrus (35). Not to mention they've got 41-year-old Martin Brodeur in goal. Have Jaromir Jagr and Co. finally found the elusive Philosopher's Stone? What's Lou Lamoriello putting in the Kool-Aid? How long can the Devils continue to successfully fight Father Time?
- Control the Tempo - The aforementioned senior citizens aren't exactly speed demons these days, and neither are the likes of Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Michael Ryder, and many of the Devils' other minute-munchers. New Jersey needs to control the pace of this one. If they get into a track meet with the Jets, they're going to be in trouble.
- Reinforcements - With captain Bryce Salvador (foot), Anton Volchenkov (leg), and Ryan Clowe (concussion) all likely out of the lineup, the Devils will be playing a bit shorthanded again tonight. Adam Larsson wasn't on the ice for today's morning skate and is a game-time decision. The Devils' reinforcements have performed admirably so far. Can they continue to plug the holes? After a short stint as a healthy scratch, Devils' forward Damien Brunner figures to be in the lineup again tonight.
Jets - 3
Devils - 2
Player to boo mercilessly:
Jaromir Jagr, because he is a wizard and must be stopped.