Happy Valentines Day! or "Forever Alone Day" as some people call it.
Welcome to another exciting edition of your AIH game previews!
The hometown Jets play the visiting New York Islanders tonight at the MTS Centre, with the Jets coming off an 8-5 drubbing at the hands of Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins, while the Isles were just the latest victims to fall at the hands of the dastardly Panthers, losing 4-1.
One thing I'm moderately excited about, aside from the acquisition of Maxime Macenauer, is that Coach Claude Noel was tinkering with the lines at practice yesterday and there's a possibility that Nik Antropov will be skating on the 4th line with Eric Fehr and Antti Miettinen. A line which I will dub "the Underachievers". The new second line would feature Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood. I dig it. Burmi has looked solid of late, and it seems a shame that an up and coming talent like him is stuck on the 4th line. Put the boy with some skilled players and see what he can do. Yes, I just called Wellwood skilled....quit looking at me like that...
The Jets need to pick up a win here. Sure they're hanging around the playoff picture, but they're also within the sights of the cellar dwellers of the Conference too. You have to win home games like this against "lesser teams" if you don't want to be playing golf in April. Not that you typically can in Winnipeg, but there's not much snow so I suppose an early melt could see the courses open sooner than usual.
But I digress...
The Jets will face back to back games on Thursday and Friday that includes a border crossing as they visit our natural rivals in the Minnesota Wild, before coming back to face the Bruins. 4 points out of 6 this week would be about all a guy can ask for.
Keys to the Game, Player Numbers and Lineups available for your viewing pleasure after THE JUMP
Keys to the Game:
- I hate that I am continuously beating this drum, but until the powerplay proves itself to me, I will continue to ask for more production from a unit that has failed to produce of late. And yes I am fully aware of the 2 PP goals against Washington. One of those was 6 on 3 and the other was a flukey goal. Hardly confidence inspiring.
- Pavelec getting the start is just the logical choice in my book. He got drubbed last game, but he's still the number 1 goalie for the foreseeable future. The home fans love him regardless. Don't believe me? He gets the loudest ovation of any Jet when the starting lineups are announced. Reason? He is the most consistent player on the team. But even he has bad days.
- Antro is on the 4th line. Do you know what this means? We might have a semblance of two dangerous scoring lines. Or as dangerous as they can be in Winnipeg with the given roster. But hey, it's a start. the only players on the ice that can match the pace of Burmi and Kaner are Burmi and Kaner, so I'm hoping they light the lamp and prove this a good decision on Noel's part.
- The Isles DO have dangerous pieces in their puzzle, with the names to watch being Parenteau and Tavares. Parenteau ranks 5th in the league with 38 assists, while John Tavares...is the only reason anybody follows the Isles? I mean the kid is a great talent that has been surrounded by mediocrity. I think he'd look great in Polar Night Blue...just saying.
- Major Bustin sighting in Pittsburgh on the weekend. Either that is a habit that needs to be nipped in the bud, or teammates and coaches need to work to ensure that it isn't costly. People need to play with their heads up. If Buff is behind the net, that means his spot on point is open and someone needs to attempt to fill it lest there be more 2 on 1's and such, resulting in a defender and goalie being hung out to dry.
- With the deadline rapidly approaching, the play of some players in the coming games will determine whether or not they find themselves in new colours after February 27. The names of upcoming Unrestricted Free Agents such as Johhny Oduya, Jim Slater and Tanner Glass will draw some attention. A Chris Mason or Kyle Wellwood type could also get moved, as they too are UFA's this summer and both have put up tasty numbers that might get playoff teams to bite.
Jets (GP 57 26-25-6 58 PTS)
#16 Andrew Ladd -- #18 Bryan Little -- #26 Blake Wheeler
#9 Evander Kane -- #8 Alexander Burmistrov -- #13 Kyle Wellwood
#15 Tanner Glass -- #19 Jim Slater -- #22 Chris Thorburn
#14 Tim Stapleton -- #80 Nik Antropov -- #20 Antti Miettinen
#39 Tobias Enstrom -- #33 Dustin Byfuglien
#6 Ron Hainsey -- #4 Zach Bogosian
#5 Mark Stuart -- #29 Johnny Oduya
#31 Ondrej Pavelec
This is what Noel had going at yesterday's practice. We'll see what he has in mind after today's morning skate...and even then it's not a guarantee. Tim Stapleton would be the healthy scratch if this IS the lineup the Jets go with.
UPDATE: Steam punk in, Eric Fehr out.
Islanders (GP 55 23-24-8 54 PTS)
#26 Matt Moulson -- #9 John Tavares -- #21 Kyle Okposo
#40 Michael Grabner -- #51 Frans Nielsen -- #15 P.A. Parenteau
#17 Matt Martin -- #12 Josh Bailey -- #11 Brian Rolston
#16 Marty Reasoner -- #29 Jay Pandolfo -- #25 Nino Niederreiter
#47 Andrew MacDonald -- #55 Aaron Ness
#2 Mark Streit -- #24 Steve Staios
#4 Mark Eaton -- #27 Milan Jurcina
#20 Evgeni Nabokov
Evgeni Nabokov got pulled on Sunday, so I slot Montoya in. I could be wrong.
UPDATE: I was wrong. Nabokov is starting. Oh, and Reasoner is in for Wallace.
Person to boo mercilessly: Garth Snow or Charles Wang. For continuously allowing this team to suck.
Prediction: Winnipeg 4-1 New York. Ain't No One F***s with the Jets. Ain't No One.