The Winnipeg Jets are set take on the Edmonton Oilers - on national television - to kick start their 2013-14 season. Both fans bases are excited as are hockey fans in general. The game we love is back! That said, prime time hasn't been kind to the Jets over the last couple seasons - hockey in general hasn't been kind to the Oilers - so his game isn't exactly a clash of the titans.
These teams are both young and they will be relying heavily on their youth in this game and throughout the season. Both teams have been mired by middling results over the last couple seasons. Both fan bases are wondering when a trip to the playoffs will become a reality. There are a lot of questions to be answered for both teams.
The Jets will come into tonight's game still experimenting with their line combinations. The Oilers will enter the game trying to figure out who the hell can play centre. There will be a lot to learn on both sides of the red line for fans and coaches alike, still this game is important - they all are.
Some prognosticators have placed the Oilers in the playoffs, most have placed the Jets in the cellar - but the Jets should be favoured to win this game. It will be interesting to see which team shows up in something closer to mid-season form and if either team's mid-season form is actually any good. Both teams need to get all the easy points they can.
Keys to the Game:
Keep It Simple Stupid: KISS methodology probably provides the perfect game plan for the Winnipeg Jets second line of KSS. Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and Devin Setoguchi are known to have wicked shots. Use them! There is no reason to get fancy. Pour pucks on net. Battle for rebounds. Score goals. Chemistry may not come right away, but that doesn't mean the goals have to wait.
Jokers are Wild: Olli Jokinen was given every opportunity to play his way onto the Winnipeg Jets second line this off-season, but he ultimately played his way off. This leaves him centering the third line that may be deployed in a defensive role. This will be a change of pace for Joker and the numbers suggest that it's one he isn't suited for. It will be interesting to see how this line performs. Jokinen will be a wild card for the Jets this year.
A Pair of Pairs: Claude Noel has juggled his defensive pairs heading into the season. The super pair of Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom is no more. Instead Enstrom is paired with Zach Bogosian and Byfuglien is paired with Grant Clitsome (may be out with injury) - it will be interesting to see how these pairs perform and how Noel divvies up the ice time.
Note: Clitsome is indeed out. Pairs will be Tobi-Buff and Bogo-Trouba. It will still be interesting to see how the ice time is devided.
Finding Strength Down the Middle: The Oilers are one of the few teams in the league that have more question marks at centre that the Jets. Injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner have left a big hole in their depth chart. Who will play where and will they be effective are two big unknowns for this club. The Oil will need strong showings from some of their lesser known centres if they want to compete in the early season.
Draw Penalties: The Oilers have largely struggled at 5 on 5 over the last couple seasons, but they have been a strong powerplay team. The skill players shine on the powerplay and Nail Yakupov is downright deadly. If the Oil can force the issue and create specials teams opportunities it will surely help their cause.
Play Some Defense: The Buffalo Sabers were the only team in the league that allowed more shots against than the Oil last year. Asking any goalie to stop 32.8 shots per night in an onerous task. Boyd Gordon was brought in to help this team defensively, but he will be asked to chip in a little offense early in the year. Can this year's version of the team spend a little bit less time scrambling around their own zone impersonating James Wright?
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Chris Thorburn. I know we normally select somebody from the other team, but Thor is terrible and I am tired of watching him. Put Matt Halischuk in there and create some offence.
Oilers 3 - F