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Preview: Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild

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The Christmas breaks ends with the Jets heading to Minnesota to take on their division rivals, the Wild, in the first of a home-and-home set. If the Jets sweep it, the Jets put a stranglehold on 4th in the Central division.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the Christmas break, the Winnipeg Jets made a bit of a statement, handing out a 5-1 spanking to the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming out of the break, the Jets can all but seal a playoff spot by beating the Minnesota Wild twice. The Wild are currently 8 points back of the Jets, and being swept in this pair of games would leave the Wild needing to play at a .600 pace for the remaining 48 games to have a chance at the post-season.

Keys to the Game


Winnipeg Jets

1. Duct Tape Defense

The Jets defence is missing its top 4 starters. Bringing in Jay Harrison has obviously helped, but we're still a week or two away before we can expect to see any of them return. In the meantime, the guys who form the defensive corps for the Jets needs to stick to the system and keep it simple.

2. #Clutchinson

After being given no chance at the starting job to begin the season, Michael Hutchinson continues to force management to create new ad exciting reasons to not give him the reins for an extended period. First - Pavelec was the incumbent starter. Then, Ondrej Pavelec was playing well. December, however, has seen Pavelec post an .889 sv%, while Michael Hutchinson is sitting with a .940, and leading the league in both GAA and SV%. Seriously - what more does he have to do?! The current excuse is that Hutchinson (who backstopped the Jets AHL affiliate to a Calder Cup final appearance last year) might not be ready for the grind of an NHL schedule.

3. Everyone not Little, Ladd, Wheeler

Earlier in the year, secondary scoring was a big problem for this squad. No more. The second, third and even fourth lines are scoring. Chris Thorburn and Anthony Peluso each have goals! Matthieu Perreault has an 8 game point streak! As long as the scoring keeps coming from everywhere, opponents will have problems assigning a shutdown line.

Minnesota Wild

1. Impersonate a Mall Parking Lot

That's right - create an insane traffic jam in front of (presumed starter) Ondrej Pavelec. Get up early, and get in his head.

2. Be More Like Birds and Winnipeggers

Chirp early, chirp often. Be cheap, and take a shot at Evander Kane. The Jets take the second most PIM per game in the league, and the refs don't seem to have any love for them. Abuse that. Often. And with the best PK at home in the league, don't be afraid of an even-up call.

3. Play Like A Pro

Going into the break, the Wild were being accused of playing without emotion. They will need to find some if they want to be in the game for longer than 20 min.

Player to Boo Mercilessly

Ryan Suter. And Matt Cooke - because, well, Matt Cooke.

Prediction

Winnipeg 4

Minnesota 1

The Jets keep rolling, the Wild are too tame.