Fresh off a comeback victory to open the season in Edmonton on Tuesday, the Winnipeg Jets raise the curtain at the MTS Centre for the 2013-14 season as they take on the Kings in their home opener. While the Jets come into the game with two days rest, the Kings are playing for the second consecutive night. L.A. opened the season on Thursday in Minnesota against the Wild with a third period comeback of their own, before pulling out a win in a shootout.
Playing on back-to-back nights is tough at any point in the season, and the Kings may not be in game shape yet. If the Winnipeg Jets can keep the game tight early, Los Angeles could wear down permitting the Jets to take control of the game as it progresses.
Opening night resulted in opportunities for both the pro and anti-Pavelec camps to argue in favour of their positions. Ondrej Pavelec looked shaky at times in the first two periods against Edmonton, but he put together a sparkling third period that facilitated a surge to victory. Against a team like the Oilers it is possible to have one solid period and win, that same performance will not suffice in L.A.
While there can be fierce disagreement between the #fancystats crowd and the you cannot measure the will to win group, there is one thing both sides can agree on; James Wright is not good at hockey. Coach Claude Noel seems to be slowly coming around to that revelation as well. Wright will be bumped to the fourth line Friday as Eric Tangradi moves up to the third line. The sounds of jubilation you hear are coming from Olli Jokinen and Michael Frolik.
Keys to the Game:
Diversify production: It was great to get goals from Calder candidates Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, as well as two from the new to the Jets Michael Frolik, but those players can not be expected to lead the offense on a regular basis. It would be nice to see Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane get in on the goal scoring.
Steady on the back end: The blue liners were shaky at times in Edmonton. Paul Postma and Trouba had some sloppy giveaways and Mark Stuart played at his usual level. Against a more polished opponent, that type of sloppiness will come back to bite the Jets more frequently.
Establish a time share: Dominating possession of the puck against the Kings is unlikely. Los Angeles led the NHL in Corsi% last season and is entrenched as a dominant puck control team. If the Jets can wrangle an even distribution of puck time they will put the Kings on their heels.
Fight the fatigue: After the adrenaline of opening night and a quick trip north, the Kings have to muster up the energy to play again on Friday night. The Jets have shown the ability to knock off top teams in the past, so a lacklustre effort can easily lead to an embarassing loss.
Attack deep: With the shakiness of Postma and Stuart, the inexperience of Trouba, and the potential for Dustin Byfuglien to turn into Bustin at any moment, the Kings' physical forwards should look to get the puck deep in an attempt to force the Jets' defencemen into errors.
Battle of the second lines: The Jets' top line has shown that they can battle opposing team's top lines on a regular basis. So the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter line will look to outshine the Kane, Scheifele, Devin Setoguchi combination -- even if they are not directly matched up -- and establish an offensive advantage.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Dustin Brown. He's just got one of those faces that demands heckling.