GameDay Preview: Winnipeg Jets host the Phoenix Coyotes as the NHL re-opens its doors

Marianne Helm

The Olympics were fun, but they weren't NHL hockey. The NHL is back. The Jets are back. Game one is mighty important. Gotta win!

The Winnipeg Jets return to action with a game that they must win. "Must win" may seem a little dramatic with 22 games left, but there are a few games that the Jets cannot afford to drop and this is one of them. The Jets currently sit two points out of a Wild Card playoff spot - Phoenix sits between them and the line, and Phoenix has two games in hand.

Most of the players in this game will coming off of a two week break and a long run of practices. They should be fired up to get back on the ice. Add in the fact that these teams are tight in the standings and the teams should be fired up. The stretch drive is here. The trade deadline is nearing. The outcome of this game (and the next couple) may impact Kevin Cheveldayoff's thought processes. Game on!

Keys to the Game

Winnipeg Jets

Canada's Worst Goalie. Okay, okay. Mike Smith isn't the worst goalie in Canada, but he was the worst Team Canada goaltender in Sochi and generally speaking he is vastly overrated. He isn't a horrible goaltender, but he is average to slightly below average statistically. If the Jets can get pucks on net they should pot a few goals.

Speed Kills. Evander Kane is back! He will be joining Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler on what has to be one of the fastest lines in the league. This creates match-up issues for pretty well every opponent.

Ondrej. The Winnipeg Jets' #1 goalie is wildly inconsistent. He can steal a game, and he can flat out throw them away. The Jets need good Ondrej if they want a hope or winning this game.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Defense Rests. The Coyotes are still thought of as a "system team" that limits chances for the opposition. They aren't. The Coyotes rank 24th in shot prevention and 21st in goal prevention. They are worse that the Jets by both measures. Their best defender, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, may be tired. The 'Yotes need to find some stability on the back end if they want to come away with a win.

Don't Take Penalties. The Coyotes penalty kill ranks 24th in the NHL. It has been a problem all year. Staying out of the penalty box is the easiest way to minimize this issue. No PIMs means no PP goals against.

Chip & Hammer. On the flip side of special teams, the Yotes have a top notch power play, with the 6th ranked unit in the NHL. They also have a couple players in Kyle Chipchura and Rob Klinkhammer that do a pretty good job of drawing penalties. The NHL is becoming more and more about special teams so coming on the plus side of the special teams ledger can go a long way towards deciding the outcome.

Player to Boo Mercilessly

Mike Ribeiro - He is Mike Ribeiro

Prediction

Jets 3

Coyotes 2

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