The Winnipeg Jets welcome the Dallas Stars to Winnipeg on Saturday in a rare matinee game at the MTS Centre. The Jets come into this game sporting a 14-14-5 record on the season. With 33 points in 33 games, the Jets are currently last in the Central Division and 12t in the NHL's Western Conference. The Stars, meanwhile, are currently 14-11-5, 5th in the Central Division, and 10th in the Western Conference.
Both teams come into this game in need of a win after having lost two in a row. For the Jets, two solid performances against the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche resulted in just a single point - via shootout loss - for the home team against two Central Division opponents. The Stars, meanwhile, are coming off of two regulation losses at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators.
On the injury front, Stars' center Tyler Seguin recently returned from a suspected concussion, picking up right where he left off. The Stars will be playing without defensemen Trevor Daley (ankle) and Stefan Robidas (leg), however. Look for Alex Goligoski and Brenden Dillon to pick up a lot of the extra slack and ice time. The Jets, meanwhile, will still be without defensemen Zach Bogosian and Paul Postma. Star forward Evander Kane skated at practice Friday and a return to the lineup is possible, though he is doubtful to play.
In goal, the Kari Lehtonen is expected to start for the Stars, while the Jets will likely counter with Ondrej Pavelec.
Keys to the Game - Winnipeg Jets
Ondrej Pavelec - Ondrej Pavelec has been on quite the cold spell in the month of December. In four games, he has just one win while sporting an .890 save percentage. As Ondrej Pavelec goes, so go the Jets, so Pavelec will need to be better in order to give the Jets a chance to win.
Secondary Scoring - The Winnipeg Jets have scored 81 goals this season. The Jets' top 6 forwards - Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen, and Devin Setoguchi - have scored 51 of them. With Kane likely out again, the Jets' will continue to need offensive contributions from unlikely sources, particularly from their defensemen (which used to be their calling card).
Stay out of the box - The Jets have cut back on penalties in recent weeks, improving to 23rd in the NHL in minor penalties taken (hey, compared to last, 23rd is good!). Can they keep it up?
Keys to the Game - Dallas Stars
Ruff Matchup - With both Robidas and Daley out of the lineup, the Stars' defense will feature youngsters Jamie Oleksiak and Kevin Connauton. Can Lindy Ruff and the Stars' coaching staff provide them with matchups?
Power play scoring - The Winnipeg Jets take minor penalties like they're going out of style, but the Stars' power play is ranked dead last in the league with a 10.5% conversion rate. The Stars have been tinkering lately though, and today would be a great day for a breakthrough. Look for Benn-Whitney-Chiasson-Seguin-Goligoski on the top unit, while Colton Sceviour, the AHL's leading goal scorer, has been called up and is expected to join the second power play unit.
Dictate the pace - The Jets are at home, have last change, and have the benefit of a short-handed Stars' defense. If the Stars let the pace get away from them in this one, it won't be pretty. If the Stars can dictate the pace and style of the game, they stand a good chance to win.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Jamie Benn, because my friend from Victoria said he's "a real dick" these days who has let his success get to his head.