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Game #58 Preview: Winnipeg Jets at Florida Panthers

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Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, your Winnipeg Jets take on the Sunshine State's best, the Tampa Bay Lightning Florida Panthers. This is their first clash of the 2015-16 season, with the second and final game taking place March 1st at the MTS Centre. Coming into the BB&T Center, the Jets have a road record of 12-15-3, while Florida is a stellar 18-9-4 at home.

Tonight's tilt takes place at 6:00 PM Central Time, and can be found on FS-F, Sportsnet and TSN 1290.

It's a Numbers Game

Winnipeg Jets

Florida Panthers

Record

25-28-4

33-18-7

Games Played - Points

57 GP - 54 pts

58 GP - 74 pts

Division

7th (Central)

1st (Atlantic)

Conference

13th (Western)

2nd (Eastern)

League

27th

5th

Last 10 - Streak

4-5-1 - OT1

5-3-2 - OT1

Goals For / Game

2.56 (19th)

2.67 (12th)

Goals Against / Game

2.89 (25th)

2.31 (4th)

Shots For / Game

29.9 (15th)

27.8 (28th)

Shots Against / Game

29.7 (14th)

29.8 (16th)

5v5 Corsi For %

51.9% (8th)

47.2% (27th)

5v5 Shooting %

7.19% (17th)

8.51% (3rd)

5v5 SV %

92.51% (16th)

93.40% (7th)

5v5 PDO

99.7 (19th)

101.9 (3rd)

Power Play %

16.5% (27th)

16.2% (28th)

Penalty Kill %

77.9% (27th)

81.8% (13th)

PIM / Game

12:45 (29th)

10:31 (22nd)

The Sunshine State is just full of surprises this season. While the Lightning continue to fight for their playoff lives, the Florida Panthers have been the ying to Tampa Bay's yang. Five points over Boston for 1st in the Atlantic, and 2nd only to Washington in the East, it would take a fair-sized collapse for playoffs to not be in the cards.

And on that note, the Panthers' record serves to mask underlying concerns. While Florida's Goals Against per game is stellar, it owes more to excellent goaltending than actually controlling play. Considering their quite pitiful possession stats, it comes as no surprise that the Florida Panthers manage an underwhelming 27.8 Shots For per game. Combine this with the league's 3rd highest Shooting % and a Power Play worse than Winnipeg's, and there is a very likely correction coming for the Florida Panthers in the Goals For department.

The Winnipeg Jets end their four game road trip tonight, having thus far accumulated a wonderfully mediocre 1-1-1 record. While it's no point of pride to defeat the Edmonton Oilers, and the first 40 minutes against Carolina were moderately depressing, the team will hope to build on their gutsy shootout loss against Tampa Bay. Despite playing well against last year's Eastern Conference Champions, subpar goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec left the Jets with a mountain to climb. Galvanized by the injury to Bryan Little and fury of their head coach, Winnipeg managed to bring the result to a respectable end. Will that momentum continue?

Hutchamania: One More Chance

Michael Hutchinson

Roberto Luongo

Record

6-10-1

24-14-5

Overall SV%

.908%

.924%

ES SV%

.908%

.939%

PP SV%

.908%

.858%

After the .808 SV% effort which was Ondrej Pavelec on Thursday, it's no surprise to see Michael Hutchinson given the nod tonight. While it's been an underwhelming season for the Jets' backup, Hutch's last two starts showed promise, with save percentages of .913 and .941. Tonight gives opportunity for his reclamation to properly begin.

Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo is the rock upon which Florida builds their success, and lackluster fancy stats have not prevailed against him. The Boston favourite is now 36 years old, and one wonders how much longer his status as a top-10 NHL goaltender will continue. It's been a rough stretch of late for the franchise goaltender, with save percentages of .882, .769 and .821 in his last three starts. For Florida's last two games, Luongo even sat in favour of Al Montoya; he'll be looking to redeem himself tonight.

Speaking of which, our old friend Montoya has been a phenomenal backup for Florida this season, with a record of 9-4-2 and .930 SV%.

Brian Campbell vs. the Armia of Darkness

Tobias Enstrom

Brian Campbell

Games Played

57

58

Goals - Assists - Points

1-10-11

5-19-24

Power Play Points

1

8

Shots / Game

0.8

1.3

Shooting %

2.3%

6.8%

TOI / Game

20:04

21:51

PP TOI / Game

00:59

02:36

SH TOI / Game

01:13

01:29

Hits / Game

0.3

0.3

Blocks / Game

1.3

0.8

5v5 CF% RelTM

+0.4

+6.5%

Most Frequent 5v5 Partner

Tyler Myers

Aaron Ekblad

In the interest of balance, Florida looks to have broken up the power couple of Brian Campbell and Aaron Ekblad, a move which may bode poorly for both of them. Together at 5v5, they have a CF% of 58.4%. When apart, Ekblad's CF% drops to 45.7%, while Campbell falls to 47.0%.

With Ekblad alongside Dmitry Kulikov and Campbell riding shotgun beside Alex Petrovic, coupled with a third pairing of Steven Kampfer and Michael Matheson, this is a d-corps even a middling Jets squad can and should take advantage of.

Jaromir Jagr, Kindergarten Cop

Mark Scheifele

Vincent Trocheck

Games Played

46

58

Goals - Assists - Points

13-16-29

17-19-36

Power Play Points

6

11

Shots / Game

2.5

2.1

Shooting %

11.2%

13.9%

TOI / Game

17:16

16:58

PP TOI / Game

02:20

02:37

SH TOI / Game

00:12

00:26

Hits / Game

0.8

1.6

Blocks / Game

0.5

0.5

5v5 CF% RelTM

+4.1%

+2.4

Most Frequent 5v5 Linemate

Mathieu Perreault

Reilly Smith

It's easy to take Bryan Little for granted, but his absence creates quite the lineup hole. As a result, Perreault is now pivot to Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler on the first line, while Andrew Copp draws back in as the 4C. It will be interesting to see how this impacts Wheeler, who's on fire with five points in his last four games. If anything, playing with Winnipeg's future captain and rookie phenom will hopefully jumpstart Perreault, who has just one point in his last five appearances.

As indicated by the recall of rookies Kyle Rau and Michael Matheson, the Florida Panthers are dealing with significant injuries of their own. Both underrated 1C Aleksander Barkov and gritty defenceman Erik Gudbranson are aiming to return next week, while future Winnipeg Jets goalscorer Brandon Pirri remains out after a mildly horrific ankle injury.

Old man Jagr has 18 goals and 41 points in 55 games this season, while averaging 16:57 minutes per game. With his usual centreman in Barkov still recovering, expect to see the future Hall of Famer beside Vincent Trocheck as he chases Brett Hull for 3rd most goals in NHL history:

KTV: Winnipeg Jets

Key:

Showcase Andrew Ladd in advance of his trade to Florida. Keep Nikolaj Ehlers playing big minutes, while affording the same opportunity to Joel Armia. Fix the specials teams in preparation for next season, and for the love of all that is holy, give the Panthers fewer than five power play opportunities. Punish their understrength d-corps and bottom-six with constant pressure and bone-crunching (but legal) hits.

Tweet:

Video:

KTV: Florida Panthers

Key:

Barkov is a huge loss for Florida, but those who remain need to step up offensively. Jonathan Huberdeau has zero points in his last three, Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck one in their last four, and Jussi Jokinen zero in his last four. That's two-thirds of Florida's top-six right there. Florida's 1-1-1 record the last three games seems flattering, considering how they've also scored just three goals over that span.

This is an incredible opportunity for Nick Bjugstad, who had been serving as the team's 3C and looked no better than okay doing it. Thrust into the 1C role beside Jokinen and Huberdeau, Barkov's absence is Bjugstad's chance to kick his offensive game up a notch.

Tweet:

Video:

In case anyone wanted to see Jagr's 740th goal, here it is.

Affection or Affliction

Affection. As the video above showed, Blake Wheeler immediately rose to the occasion after Bryan Little was injured. Instantly going after Anton Stralman seems like the kind of move teammates would appreciate; I know I sure did. Damn good job, Captain Wheeler. Shower him with praise and adoration.

According to Nostradamus

Luongo's post-All Star Break struggles continue. After allowing three goals in the 1st period, Al Montoya comes out for the 2nd and beyond. Nick Bjugstad does indeed score, but it's the only Florida tally of the night.

Jets win 4-1. Mathieu Perreault has a two point night. Ladd leaves to the locker room, giving Jets fans a heart attack, but returns before the game ends.

Stats, facts and automobiles provided by NHL.com, Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Analysis and The Hockey News.