With the regular season ticking down, focus has become more and more concentrated on the postseason, and this tilt between the Jets and Hurricanes drips with importance, as a win by Winnipeg would increase their hold on the Southeast Division lead, while a win by Carolina would pull them back into playoff contention after dropping 7 straight contests.
The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and the first at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The first two games of the season series went to the Jets with a 4-3 win on February 21st, and a 4-1 win just 4 days ago in Raleigh. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec has a .942 save percentage this season against Carolina, and will no doubt be looking to continue his strong play against the 'Canes this afternoon.
Winnipeg is coming off a 4-0 loss to the
2012-2013 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins that might have been disappointing, but wasn't really all that unpredictable. Pittsburgh's a contender, while Winnipeg is less than a good bet to make the playoffs.
Luckily for Winnipeg they only play 3 teams in playoff position in their remaining 13 regular season games, including a 6 game home stand against non-playoff teams that can really cement their spot at the top of the Southeast Division standings. Putting some distance between themselves and the second place team in the division is only logical. To do that they'll need a win today and another on the 18th when the teams meet for the final time this season.
In their two games, Evander Kane leads the Jets with 2 goals and 3 assists, while Jiri Tlusty has 3 goals for the 'Canes. While the Jets have had solid goaltending in the series, Carolina has allowed 8 goals on 59 shots and will need better if they want any chance of winning the final Southeast Division title.
Keys to the Game:
- Toby, or not Toby: With the return of Tobias Enstrom the Winnipeg Jets received an offensive boost. It didn't work against Pittsburgh, but the results are nevertheless positive as a whole. Toby is needed to take some of the load off of Dustin Byfuglien, as his body seems to be wearing out rapidly as the season goes on. The Jets will need Buff, not Bustin, if they want to make the playoffs and last longer than 4 games when they get there.
- The Pavs, not the Pav nots: Ondrej Pavelec can be lights out awesome, or lights out awful. There rarely seems to be a middle ground. Luckily, his play of late has been on a (mostly) upward trend and he might someday give Jets fans reason to believe his contract was worth it.
- All Hains(ey) on Deck: It's no secret Ron Hainsey is quickly becoming Public Enemy Number 1 around these parts, so he would be doing both himself and his team a favor if he improved his play. Improved play would mean that any potential contract offer this off-season would be bigger, while his team would have an increasingly valuable bargaining chip as trade deadline approaches.
- Stop the slide: The 'Canes have not won since a 4-0 win over the Capitals on March 12. 7 games have passed since then, as the wheels have really fallen off since Cam Ward went down to...whatever injury it is he went down to.
- Un-Staal Jordan's Car...olina: Jordan Staal was brought in as a big acquisition this past offseason, but has "just" 21 points in 32 games while putting up a -9 rating. The 'Canes could use multiple effective scoring lines, as Jordan needs to step up his play if that is to be a feasible option.
- Call a plumber, there's a problem between the pipes: Justin Peters has proven to be as effective as one would expect from a a third string goalie. Despite posting a shutout against Washington earlier this month, he has allowed 8 goals in last two outings on 69 shots. He's got to do better to keep the other team, as well as his own, from scoring.
Player to boo mercilessly:
ANYBODY BUT ERIC STAAL! He responds well to it...
Carolina 0 - F