Preview: Winnipeg Jets have playoff position locked in their sights as they host the New York Rangers

Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE

The Winnipeg Jets are tied with the New York Rangers for 8th-place in the Eastern Conference, but a victory over the blue-shirts this evening will vault them into the top-8 on their own.

Game Preview:

Coming off of arguably their most complete effort and best game of the season, the Winnipeg Jets attempt to string together another solid effort when they welcome the New York Rangers tonight at the MTS Centre. The 5-2 dismantling of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday saw many players put in their best performance of the season, and the crowd was as loud as it's ever been. With efforts like that, it is easy to suggest that the Jets could in fact be a playoff team.

The Rangers, on the other hand, come limping into the River City, as they are coming off of a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres that led to a vicious tongue-lashing from coach John Tortorella post-game. The Rangers have been a tough team to figure out this season, as you'd figure with all of the fire power they'd be averaging more than the 2.48 goals per game (T-21st) that they have.

Both teams will be looking to improve upon their records of where they play, as the Jets are only 5-6-0 at home while the Rangers are 4-5-1 on the road. The special teams battle would lean towards the Rangers, as their PP% of 15.7 (23rd) and PK% of 84.3 (7th) are both ahead of the Jets, who have a PP% of 14.1 (27th) and a PK% of 77.8 (26th). Having said that, the Jets are on an incredible roll with their penalty-kill as they haven't allowed a power-play goal in their last eight games (25 attempts).

Keys to the Game:

Winnipeg Jets:

  • Get the Crowd Going: As mentioned above, the MTS Centre had bumping on Tuesday as the team finally gave their fans a lot to cheer about. This building can be an intimidating one to play in when the crowd is engaged, so it would be a good idea to get them going early.
  • Don't Lose the Special Teams Battle: The Jets finally scored a power-play goal the other night, as a Dustin Byfuglien point shot bounced of Nik Antropov to open the scoring, and it led to another game where their special teams matched or out-performed the oppositions. That should be a major goal for this team.
  • Overcome loss of Jim Slater: While Slater takes a bit of a beating around here for his bad possession numbers, the fact remains that he is the guy that coach Noel trusts the most to take important d-zone draws. While it is unclear at this time whether Alex Burmistrov or Patrice Cormier will replace him in the lineup, it is very important that somebody win the draws. Expect Bryan Little to be busy tonight.

New York Rangers:

  • Do Something Positive: I can only imagine that the team isn't in a great head-space right now after the verbal abuse that they took from their coach following the last game. They will need to something good, and likely early, to get some positive thoughts headed in their direction.
  • Get quality goal-tending: The Rangers aren't scoring many goals, so it will be important that Henrik Lundqvist play well in order to keep the Rangers in the game. With the way Ladd's Little Wheeler and Evander Kane are playing, the goalie will need to play well to keep them off of the scoresheet.
  • Score some goals: The Rangers do not have a player on the team who has hit double-digits in scoring yet, as RIck Nash is closest with 9. They also only have five players with 5 or more goals. This team should score more, and won't many games if they don't get at least 3 on the board on any given night.

Player to Boo Mercilessly:

Arron Asham. The guy from Portage la Prairie chose not to sign with the Winnipeg Jets this past off-season. While I don't even know if he Chevy offered him a contract, I'm still sour. Every Manitoba skater should sign here. Or something.

Prediction:

Jets 4

Rangers 1 - F

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