In a true litmus test for both the Panthers and the Jets, Winnipeg faces a team that has played to the top of the Southeast Division. For much of 2011-12, the Panthers have deserved a place near the top of the SE, though in more-recent months their performance (particularly their shooting) has dipped and brought them closer to their rivals. In fact, the Jets, Capitals, and Panthers are all within 3 standing points of one another, and a win for Winnipeg could bring all three teams nearly to a tie.
This game signifies the last tilt before a 5-game road trip to the east coast, so it will be crucial that we make this one count. It gets even more intense when you consider the long and storied rivalry between these two teams...
Keys to the game, player numbers, and lineup after the jump...
Keys to the Game
- This is a low penalty-minute team that has done well on the powerplay, so it will be incredibly important to stay out of the box. No really, I mean it this time. Seriously.
- Not having Evander Kane or Tim Stapleton tonight means we'll need a couple of guys to step into our PP unit, which will be important because we won't be committing penalties, right?
- To the previous point: could see some more Boogie Blasts from the point on the powerplay. On a tangent: just had a great idea for a name for Zach Bogosian-themed cereal.
- Not making things any easier is the fact that some of the Panthers' injuries (part of the cause for their recent troubles) are starting to return, including Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, and Jack Skille. All three fill out their forward lines with solid, two-way hockey.
- Just give Tobias Enstrom the puck and let the play develop through him. The guy is an artist, and the ice is his canvas. Pardon the shoddy metaphor.
- Is there some way to neutralize the inevitable Randy Jones / Ron Hainsey Ineptitude Tour? Thank goodness for the return of the Boogie Man.
Jets (GP 47 22-20-5 49 PTS)
#17 Eric Fehr -- #18 Bryan Little -- #26 Blake Wheeler
#16 Andrew Ladd -- #80 Nik Antropov -- #13 Kyle Wellwood
#15 Tanner Glass -- #19 Jim Slater -- #22 Chris Thorburn
#8 Alexander Burmistrov -- #28 Patrice Cormier -- #20 Antti Miettinen
#39 Tobias Enstrom -- #6 Ron Hainsey
#29 Johnny Oduya -- #4 Zach Bogosian
#5 Mark Stuart -- #12 Randy Jones
#31 Ondrej Pavelec
It pains me to put Burmi so low on a consistent basis, but that's the kind of minutes he's been getting. I would love to trade places between his line and GST, to be honest, but the TOI reports would not support that idea. Oh well.
Panthers (GP 47 21-15-10 52 PTS)
#32 Kris Versteeg -- #9 Stephen Weiss -- #82 Tomas Kopecky
#14 Tomas Fleischmann -- #57 Marcel Goc -- #26 Mikael Samuelsson
#19 Scottie Upshall -- #18 Shawn Matthias -- #12 Jack Skille
#20 Sean Bergenheim -- #10 John Madden -- #21 Krys Barch
#51 Brian Campbell -- #52 Jason Garrison
#4 Keaton Ellerby -- #43 Mike Weaver
#7 Dmitry Kulikov -- #44 Erik Gudbranson
#30 Scott Clemmensen
A lot of defensive-minded players in the lineup, and some pretty good faceoff guys and shot blockers. It might be a war of attrition, provided neither goalie has a bad day.
Player to boo mercilessly: Kry Barch, probably the only guy in their entire lineup that I don't find to be a respectable hockey player.
Prediction: 2-1 Winnipeg. It'll be a tough battle, but the Panthers slumping offence could mean that both teams try to win a defensive battle.