After struggling to generate points at home (the Jets have picked up just two points in their last five home games), the Winnipeg Jets will take on the Dallas Stars tonight hoping that a little time away from home will help reverse the team's fortunes.
After a hot start - fueled by hot goaltending - under new head coach Paul Maurice, the Jets have cooled off significantly and enter tonight's contest just 2-5-3 in their last 10 games, though one of wins came in a 7-2 dismantling of the Stars. Still, with 73 points in 72 games, the Jets sit 11th in the Western Conference and are all but out of the running for the playoffs. The Stars, meanwhile, are 5-4-1 in their last 10 and are fighting desperately for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Two points back of the Phoenix Coyotes and with one game in hand, the Stars should be fired up heading into tonight's game.
Here are tonight's keys to the game, literary style.
Keys to the Game
To be, or not to be: Is Al Montoya a starting-caliber goaltender, or isn't he? With Ondrej Pavelec's injury comes the inevitable goaltending debate. Early reviews are a mixed bag, and it looks like Al Montoya will be given another opportunity to prove himself worthy.
O Evander, Evander! Wherefore art thou Evander?: Evander Kane is a shot generating machine, but hasn't been able to translate that into goals and points. From my vantage point, it looks like he's still highly capable of generating chances on his own but struggles to put himself in scoring position when playing away from the puck. That is simply his way. I'd like to see Kane play with a center that can overcome those challenges and he might get his chance tonight, as Andrew Ladd will likely sit tonight's game out due to the birth of his daughter. Lucky for Evander the Dallas Stars' defense isn't exactly the most fleet of foot, with 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar and 225 lb Brenden Dillon still logging major minutes. Footspeed, meet lack of it. Now with a center that can help him succeed, this is Evander Kane's time to shine.
Eh tu, Bogo?: Depth was highlighted as an area of concern heading into the season and sure enough, the problem continues to rear it's ugly head, especially on defense. Zach Bogosian, Jacob Trouba, Grant Clitsome, Paul Postma, and Mark Stuart have all missed significant time due to injury this season and it looks like the Jets may be playing without Bogosian again moving forward after he left last game midway through the second period. Can Paul Postma step in and perform in Bogosian's place?
It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves: The Stars currently sit two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. With a game in hand and a 2-0 season series lead, the Stars are in full control of their playoff destiny. The Stars have an opportunity to take control of their playoff chances. Lindy Ruff has been here before will surely emphasize not squandering that opportunity.
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them: The Stars are led up front by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, both of whom are having career years. Just 22 and 24 years old, respectively, Seguin and Benn have the potential to form one of the great 1-2 punches in hockey for a decade to come. Can Benn and Seguin lead the Stars to victory once again, and down the path to playoff glory? The first step in the process is tonight against the Jets
I dote on his very absence: After another Kari Lehtonen injury scare, the recently acquired Tim Thomas surrendered an average of four goals per game in Lehtonen's absence. Lehtonen is once again healthy and back in goal though, providing the Stars with a formidable last line of defense.
Farewell, fair cruelty
(i.e. Player to Boo Mercilessly)
Antoine Roussel. With 178 penalty minutes (and counting!), he can probably be goaded into doing something stupid.
Better a witty fool than a foolish wit