Robert Louis Stevenson would have had a field day with this team.
Though the Jets have looked quite poor at times this season, they've competed admirably against some of the league's best teams. Which Winnipeg Jets team will show up tonight against the Nashville Predators? That is the question, as the Winnipeg Jets have displayed tendencies not unlike those described by Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde so far this young season.
The Jets come into this contest 4-4-0 on the heals of eeking out a 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues. The Jets probably didn't play well enough to deserve winning that contest, but a few goalposts, giveaways, lucky offensive bounces, and a skills contest later, emerged victorious. The Jets will be without rookie Jacob Trouba in this one after his frightening fall into the boards on Friday night, and it appears that Adam Pardy will also draw into the lineup in Mark Stuart's place.
The Nashville Predators, meanwhile, come into this contest 4-3-1 on the season. The Predators will be playing their second game in as many nights, coming off of a 2-1 victory in Montreal last night. There's no Jekyll and Hyde here though; devoid of game-breaking offensive talent but full of heart, soul, and hustle, these Predators are exactly what we've come to expect from Barry Trotz and David Poile.
Also of note are the playoff implications in play tonight, as this will be these teams' first meeting as Central Division rivals.
Can the Jets chalk up another W and pull above .500 for the first time since October 4? We find out tonight.
Keys to the Game
Secondary Scoring: The Winnipeg Jets have scored 20 goals this season: 4 from Evander Kane, 3 a piece from Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, 2 each from Olli Jokinen, Devin Setoguchi, and Michael Frolik, and one each from Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Tobias Enstrom, and Jacob Trouba. In other words, all of the usual suspects. Meanwhile, the forwards rounding out the lineup have a combined 33 man-games between them and no goals to show for it. As wit any team, a some extra scoring from unlikely sources would take this Jets team from mediocre to good.
Make the Predators Skate: The Predators arrived from Montreal late last night, and are playing the second half of a back-to-back set. Energy will be at a premium, and if the Jets can drain the Predators of energy early on, they ought to be able to take advantage of some tired legs as the game wears on.
The Bench Bosses: Steady as always, Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien continue to be top defensemen in the NHL. Overall though, the Jets' defense hasn't looked particularly strong this season. With Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart out of the lineup, an already under-performing group will be handicapped, and more pressure will be placed on the likes of Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Paul Postma, and newcomer Adam Pardy. With the last change at home, Claude Noel and Charlie Huddy (who runs the defense) will need to deploy their defensive units wisely.
Score: It's tough to win games without scoring goals, and the Predators are one of the league's worst at putting the puck in the net. In fact, the Predators come into tonight's matchup averaging less than two goals per game this season. I'm no chef, but that doesn't sound like much of a recipe for success.
Traffic Jam: Speaking of scoring goals, here's how you do it. Ondrej Pavelec has very fast feet and quick reflexes, but he struggles to find pucks in traffic and his rebound control is less than stellar. Shot volumes are the way to beat Pavelec, particularly with traffic in front of the net.
Pekka Rinne: Let's face it: Pekka Rinne is one of those players that can win a hockey game all by himself. When he's in the zone, he's one of the best in the world and nearly impossible to beat. But with the Predators playing on back-to-back nights, will Rinne be on his game?
Player to boo mercilessly
Pekka Rinne - If he's comfortable, it could be a long night, no matter how these two teams play. Get him out of his comfort zone.
Pavelec lets in a soft one, but the Predators' goal-scoring troubles nonetheless continue.
Winnipeg Jets - 3
Nashville Predators - 2