Well, if the Winnipeg Jets aren't completely out of the playoff picture already, they will be tonight if they don't pick up a clean win over the Dallas Stars at the MTS Centre.
Winless in their last six games, five of which have come since Kevin Cheveldayoff sat on his hands at the NHL Trade Deadline, the Jets chances are on life-support when it comes to sneaking into a wildcard playoff spot in the Western Conference and will need to reel off a bunch of wins in a row pronto. And it has to start tonight as the Stars currently occupy the only playoff spot that the Jets, Coyotes and Canucks could possibly reach.
Keys to the Game
Stop sucking at home: Remember all that talk about the great chance the Jets had with 9 of the first 12 games coming out of the Olympic break at home? Well, the Jets are currently 1-3-2 in the first six games of that stretch, which simply won't cut it. With a 15-14-6 record within the friendly confines of the MTS Centre, it's no wonder the Jets are charging hard for an 11th-place finish in the West.
Oh goal scorers, where art thou? Blake Wheeler has one goal in his last 13 games, which was a hideous one that only went in because Mike Smith was hilariously faking goalie interference. Evander Kane has one goal in his last 12 games, and none since the Olympics ended. Devin Setoguchi also has one goal in his last 12, and has zero points in his last six. Olli Jokinen has two goals in his last 19 games. These four players combine to make $18.35 million per season. That's, um... crappy. Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien can't be relied on to do it all.
#wallmontoya: I'll try not to cheer too hard that Ondrej Pavelec will miss at least the next two games with a lower-body injury, but it is refreshing to see that Al Montoya, and his far superior numbers, will get his chance to shine for the Jets. And Michael Hutchinson will get a cup of coffee in the show as the backup, so good for him. His numbers in the AHL have been spectacular this year.
The Benn & Seguin Show: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have absolutely torched the Jets this season. Despite both being shut out completely in one of the three games, the duo combined for 13 points (3g 2a for Benn, 4g 4a for Seguin) in the other two. And with the way Zach Bogosian is currently playing, I'm kind of terrified to see what they will do tonight against our "shutdown pairing".
Tiny Tim: While Kari Lehtonen could possibly return from his concussion today, the Stars shouldn't feel any need to rush to get him back as their trade deadline acquisition of Tim Thomas has worked out just fine. Timmy is 2-0-1 in a Stars jersey so far with a 0.924 sv% and 2.11 GAA.
Shooting Stars: The Stars are 5-2-1 since the Olympic break, which included a tough 4-3 SO loss to the Flames the other night. They have taken hold of the final wildcard spot in the West and are currently listed as having a 75.3% chance of making the playoffs (as compared to the 1.0% chance the Jets have). They are in the drivers seat and would need a pretty big collapse to fall out of contention.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Ryan Garbutt. I don't care if he's from Winnipeg. His name just lends itself to booing and random chants from the crowd.
Tyler Seguin does it again, scoring two goals and two assists in a 6-2 thrashing of the ex-Thrashers for the third time in four attempts against the Jets.