On the heels of a disappointed 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets head to Edmonton for their second game in as many nights and last game before this year's Christmas break. 16-17-5 through 38 games, the Jets have an opportunity to head into the break with a .500 record. The Jets will be playing a back-to-back set in 24 hours; will they have the energy and execution required?
Lucky for them, they'll be taking on the conference-worst Edmonton Oilers, owners of an 11-24-3 record, including just 5-11-1 on the road. The Oilers are half-a-dozen good players surrounded by a pretty hapless bunch, so the Jets should have a strong showing.
With Ondrej Pavelec playing last night in Vancouver, the Jets are expected to start Al Montoya tonight (edit: it's actually going to be Ondrej Pavelec). The Oilers, meanwhile, are expected to counter with Ilya Bryzgalov.
Keys to the Game
Rest Up - After playing in Vancouver last night and traveling to Edmonton, will the Jets have the energy and ability - both physically and mentally - to do what it takes to win?
Strong Goaltending - The Oilers are a pretty awful possession bunch and the Jets should, at least on paper, win the possession game and out-chance Edmonton. If
Al Montoya Ondrej Pavelec can prove equal or better to his counterpart, the Jets should come away with a win.
Don't Fix it if it ain't broke - Lately the Jets have had more success offensively, scoring 2.8 goals per game in December. The newly-formed line of Mark Scheifele, Evander Kane, and Michael Frolik has been quite successful, as have Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Blake Wheeler. Coming off of a one-goal output though, Claude Noel ought to resist the court jester in him and refrain from juggling his top six forward lines.
Match the Lines - The Oilers are a very top-heavy group, while the Jets have a weak bottom six and defense pairing. Good player utilization could lead to some very favourable matchups for the Oilers' big guns, led by Taylor Hall.
Special Teams - The Jets have an atrocious power play and take far too many penalties. The Oilers could really put themselves in a position to win with strong play and good execution on special teams.
Bench the Goons - The Oilers have this silly habit of dressing too many enforcers. Unfortunately, those enforcers are pretty bad hockey players. If the Oilers really want to win this one, they ought to leave those guys at home.
Player (General Manager!) To Boo Mercilessly
Craig McTavish, because he should be ashamed of the absolute scrap heap of a team that the Oilers have built around their core, and no matter how many times you try, bringing in another veteran goaltender isn't the answer.
(edit: Actually, might as well toss in Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini, Rick Olczyk...everyone, really. In a spot usually reserved for players, this group of ex-players turned managers takes the cake for so thoroughly and spectacularly failing to build a winning team.)
A shoot-out win, after a rare strong back-to-back performance from Ondrej Pavelec.
Winnipeg Jets - 4
Edmonton Oilers - 3