Preview: Winnipeg Jets look to keep pace in the playoff race as they host the Florida Panthers

Marianne Helm

With virtually nobody else in the Eastern Conference doing them any favours of late, it looks like it's up to the Jets to help themselves. It starts tonight with a victory over the cellar-dwelling Panthers.

Preview:

If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself.

That is likely the mentality of the Winnipeg Jets right now, as they've been given literally no support from other teams in their fight for the playoffs. Sadly, that's what is to be expected as they've lost the right to control their own destiny following their awful play of the past few weeks. However, they do still have seven games in which they have direct control over, and tonight's winnable game against the basement-dwelling Florida Panthers is a great place to start.

The Jets welcome their geographical rivals from Florida into town this evening in the third game of their current six-game home-stand. Winnipeg has won the first two with quality performances in the second periods of each game, and will need to extend these quality performances to the other periods of their games if the playoffs are to be a possibility. A loss to the Panthers tonight would likely be the first of many nails in the coffin that would house the Jets' playoff hopes.

However, some bright spots have emerged from the past few games for the Jets, as Ondrej Pavelec has been stellar in both contests, allowing only one goal in each game. Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler both broke long goalless droughts, and the bottom-6 chipped in some offence which is a major plus for this team. A win tonight will help big time, but the Jets won't play again for 5 (!) days as they get a big break and allow other teams to catch up in the games played department. Needless to say, tonight is another "must-win", and it would make watching the out-of-town scoreboard from now until Tuesday that much more bearable.

Keys to the Game:

Winnipeg Jets
  • Defend Home Ice: The Jets have crawled back over the 0.500 mark at the MTS Centre thanks to their recent two wins, and now sport a 10-9-0 record as hosts. However, the Panthers aren't exactly road warriors as their 6-11-1 would attest to.
  • Produce on the Powerplay: I know, I know. The Jets power-play is comically bad, as they are 29th in the league at 12.5%. However, the Panthers are comically worse on the penalty-kill, as they are dead last in the league with a 74.4% kill rate. If nothing else, when the Jets earn a power-play you should hit mute, click here to play the Yakety Sax and watch hilarity ensue.
  • Produce in the first and third periods: Sure, the Jets have won each of the past two games by a 4-1 score. But 7 of those goals were scored in the 2nd period, and the other one was an empty-netter. I'd suggest scoring a goal in the first period tonight, just to keep your fans from having a heart attack or two.
Florida Panthers
  • Draw penalties: Sure, the Jets PK has been much better of late. But for all of the trouble the Panthers have had this season, the one area they've had success is on the power-play. Their 21.7% is actually 6th in the league, so if I'm Coach Noel I suggest to my players to stay out of the box. But with #noelogic, who knows what he'd tell them to do...
  • Keep the youth movement going: It's been a horrible season for Florida, but don't let that fool you. This team has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young talent. Guys like Jonathan Huberdeau (19), Nick Bjugstad (20), Quinton Howden (21), Erik Gudbranson (22), Drew Shore (22), Dmitry Kulikov (22) and Jacob Markstrom (23) will ensure that the Panthers will be good for a long, long time.
  • Score the first goal: Again, the Panthers have struggled mightily this season. However, when they score the first goal of the game they do sport a solid 10-3-2 record. It's the 3-17-4 (!!!) record when giving up that first goal that's killed them...

Player to Boo Mercilessly:

George Parros. Because his moustache is better than mine. :(

Prediction:

Winnipeg 5

Florida 2 - F

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