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Preview: Jets at Predators

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The Winnipeg Jets face the top team in the Central Division tonight when they take on the Nashville Predators.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a short homestand in which the Jets went 2-1-1, the Jets play their first of four games on the road tonight when they take on the Nashville Predators.  The Predators currently sit tops in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference with 89 points in 66 games.

With 76 points in 65 games, the Jets currently sit 8th in the West and are in the second Wild Card position.  With 74 points in 64 games though, the Los Angeles Kings are hot on their heels.  For the Jets, every game from here on out has huge playoff implications.

Keys to the Game

Winnipeg Jets

Picking up the slack. The Winnipeg Jets got bit  by the injury bug this week, and will be playing without their All-Star defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien, as well as #1 centre Bryan Little.  In the absence of two of their top players, the Jets will need some other players to step up.

Michael Hutchinson. The Jets are going up against one of the best goaltenders in the entire NHL tonight in Pekka Rinne.  With one of the best goaltenders as well as one of the best teams in the entire NHL, the Jets will need Michael Hutchinson to be up to the task.

Nashville Predators

Power play production. Despite a recent stretch of strong play, the Jets are still the most penalized team in the NHL by a country mile.  The Predators, meanwhile, own the league's 24th-ranked power play.  If the Predators can produce on special teams, they could run away with this one.

Matchy matchy. With Bryan Little out of the lineup, the Jets will have a 3rd and 4th line centred by Jim Slater and Eric O'Dell.  Predators coach Peter Laviolette ought to have some good opportunities to catch the Jets with the wrong personnel on the ice tonight, and the Predators ought to be ready to pounce.

Player to Watch

Michael Hutchinson.  The Jets will probably need him to be strong in net tonight.