Fresh off the NHL All-Star break and a few days off, the Winnipeg Jets travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. The Jets had been on quite a roll prior to the break, going into the break on a five game win streak and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games; they will be looking to continue that trend against Pittsburgh. The Penguins, meanwhile, struggled to a 4-3-3 record in their 10 games prior to the break.
On the injury front, Mathieu Perreault skated at practice for the Jets on Monday, although he is not expected to be in the lineup tonight. For the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin was placed on Injured Reserve on Monday and although the move was retroactive, he is not expected to be in the lineup. Meanwhile, Kris Letang was on the ice for the Penguins' practice on Monday and could return to the lineup.
You can catch all the action between the Jets and the Penguins on TSN3, or by listening to TSN 1290 radio.
Keys to the Game
Healthy Core. After playing for weeks with a patchwork defense, it looks like the Winnipeg Jets' coaching staff will have their entire top 6 defense available to them tonight with Grant Clitsome being the only exception. Against one of the most talented teams in the league, a healthy defense couldn't have come at a better time. Furthermore, it looks as though forward Matthieu Perreault could be in the lineup tonight, though no announcement has been made just yet. Perreault had 21 points in his last 20 games prior to his injury.
[Update: Perreault will be in the lineup. Mark Stuart will not.]
Don't Hang Your Goalie Out To Dry. The lowest shot total that the Jets have given up in their last four games? 29. The average in that span? 35. Only one of those games went to overtime, and the Jets' opponents weren't anything to write home about either. The Jets should be healthy and well-rested coming out of the All-Star break, and they'll need to tighten up defensively. The Jets' goaltenders have been a strong point for the team this season, but it's likely just a matter of time until they come back to Earth; in fact, Ondrej Pavelec already has. The Jets likely can't continue to win games like that.
Time To Get Back On Track. The Penguins' recent record is mediocre at best, and somewhat surprising for a team with as much talent as Pittsburgh's. They need to find a way to get in the win column tonight against the Jets, somehow.
Who will put the puck in the net? As is always the case with the Penguins, the stars are lighting it up. Evgeni Malkin leads the team in goals with 19, Sidney Crosby is second, and Chris Kunitz comes in at #3. But with four of the team's 10 top goal-scorers out of the lineup (Malkin, Hornqvist, Comeau, Dupuis) and Kris Letang possibly making it five, who will step in to pick up the slack?
[Editor's note: Sidney Crosby is ineligible for tonight's game after missing the All-Star Game. Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist, and David Perron are all listed as game-time decisions for tonight's game.]
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Thomas Greiss, because this makes two off-seasons in a row that he couldn't convince Kevin Cheveldayoff to hire him and fire Ondrej Pavelec. Just think of how much better the Jets would have been the last two seasons had he been able to.
The Penguins will get some goals, but the injuries will be too much to handle and the Penguins' lack of depth will be their undoing.