Only days after suffering defeat at the hands of Ilya Bryzgalov and the Philadelphia Flyers, the Winnipeg Jets will host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time in less than a month.
It was in mid-January that the MTS Centre crowd first welcomed Sidney Crosby to their city, an event that culminated in two first period goals from Sid the Kid, before the Jets' regained their momentum en route to a 4-2 victory.
Since then, the tables have turned drastically as Winnipeg has wrestled with their identity ever since, sputtering to a 5-6-1 record through the season's first twelve games. The Penguins have trended in the opposite direction, winning seven of their last ten and carving their niche amongst the Eastern Conference's best teams.
Tonight's biggest storyline will be the insertion of Eric Tangradi into Winnipeg's line-up, his first game with the Jets also being against the team who traded his services for a seventh round pick on Tuesday. Claude Noel was adamant that Tangradi will be utilized right off the bat, though it's uncertain whether he will slate in on the teams third or fourth line.
Equallly as enthralling is the return of Zach Bogosian who tonight will make his regular season debut.
Keys to the Game:
- Early and often: Winnipeg has shown great difficulty in playing strong hockey out of the gates, typically finding themselves down by a goal early in games. Against an offensive juggernaut like Pittsburgh, it's best to err on the side of caution and dictate the tempo early.
- Refuel the powerplay: In forty-six opportunities this year, Wininpeg's powerplay has only generated forty-one shots, ranking them dead last in the NHL. While their efficiency relies mostly on zone entries and strong puck possession, the Jets will have to work harder at getting pucks on net.
- Bogo a go-go!: Guys, Zach Bogosian is back, and not in pog form! Though he'll be given a difficult task of defending two of the NHL's most elite, it will still feel so good to watch no. 44 rocking the polar blues. His presence will go a long way in shoring up a spotty defensive unit.
- Crosby + Malkin = Winning!: The stupidly gifted duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been on-and-off these past five games, which means they're primed for a synchronized break-out at some point. We can only hope it's not tonight.
- Road Warriors: Outside of the Chicago Blackhawks (8-0-2), no team possesses a better road record than the Pittsburgh Penguins (6-2-0). We can at least take solace in the fact that one of those losses was an early season beat down administered by the Jets. Stay optimistic that Winnipeg hands them their third tonight.
- Score, Score, Score!: At a 3.14 goals per game average, the Pens are a part of the NHL's cream of the crop. Winnipeg bolsters a piecemeal defensive unit and a starting goaltender who sports a SV% of .886, so tonight could be a free pizza kind of night.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Eh, what the hell, give it to Chris Kunitz, if only because he has a stupid face you just want to punch. POW! POW!
Pittsburgh 2 - F (SO)