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Game #23 Preview: Winnipeg Jets at Washington Capitals

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The Winnipeg Jets pass through Washington, D.C. on their way to a back-to-back against Minnesota and Colorado. This flight plan seems a bit odd.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After a brief Pacific Division reprieve, your Winnipeg Jets (10-10-2) received one final Central Division reminder on Monday, a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. They now embark upon an easy peasy three game road-trip, beginning with the playoff bound Washington Capitals (14-5-1). I feel pretty confident in calling that one now.

Catch the game tonight, 6:00 PM Central Time on CSN-DC, TSN3 and TSN 1290.

Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets

Get in his personal space: Much ado has been made of Holtby coming in hot, including a 33-save shutout effort against Edmonton Monday. But while he sports a .953 SV% in his last three outings, this number masks a middling .889 SV% effort in the middle against Colorado, and over five games he's alternated between brilliance and mediocrity.

Holtby is an athletic goalie with tons of moxie and an underrated technical game, but he isn't infallible. Use the age old, tried-and-true hockey method of dealing with goaltenders: get in Holtby's wheelhouse, obstruct his view and pick your spots to give him a little nudge every so often. Do it well enough, and you might draw a penalty from Tom Wilson while you're at it.

Beating a dead horse: Over their last five games, the Jets penalty kill has allowed 7 goals on 24 times shorthanded, and according to Monumental Network, "They’ve surrendered at least one power play goal in six straight games and in nine of 11 games this month...Winnipeg has been successful on only 37 of 50 (74%) shorthanded missions in November." What's there to say at this point?

Play Hellebuyck: As per NHL.com, here are Michael Hutchinson's basic numbers so far this season. They haven't been especially pretty of late:

I'm a firm believer in overripening prospects, and then seeing what they can do in a prominent role when they are eventually recalled. It remains to be seen whether Hellebuyck will be "overripened", but in light of Ondrej Pavelec's injury, he's here now and will almost assuredly play in one of the Friday/Saturday back-to-back games. Even if Hutch gets the call tonight and puts in a solid performance, the Jets might do well by approaching the situation as a tandem not dissimilar to what they had with Pavelec/Hutch. Let's see what Hellebuyck can do.

Keys to the Game: Washington Capitals

Johnny Got His Gun: Despite regularly breaking the 25:00 minute mark and being fed ample power play time, John Carlson's offensive game has dried up, with just 1 point in his last 8 tilts. While Dmitri Orlov and Taylor Chorney of all people have been helping to pick up the slack lately, a productive Carlson changes Washington's blueline from balanced to scary.

The Red Menace: As one might expect, Washington's leading scorer is a Russian with incredible skill and electrifying talent. That Russian is of course, Evgeny Kuznetsov. Wait, what?

Now admittedly, much of that was born of Nicklas Backstrom's absence and Kuznetsov's subsequent replacement of him as Ovechkin's centre. But Kuznetsov has remained productive even after being separated from Ovi, now centring Washington's second line in-between Marcus Johansson and old man Justin Williams (free agent depth, how bout that). Washington needs him to continue taking pressure off of the Ovi/Backstrom duo.

Hold the fort: Brooks Orpik is out with injury. Let's see if Washington can somehow, miraculously survive his absence.

Player to Boo Mercilessly

T.J. Oshie, for not being good enough for the St. Louis Blues. Chant "Brouwer's better" while trying to keep a straight face.

Prediction

Blowout Washington win, delivered not by the Russians but the right wingers. Justin Williams scores two, T.J. Oshie scores one and Tom Wilson fights.

Jets lose 5-1.