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Preview: Winnipeg Jets vs Anaheim Ducks

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In an early Easter present, it looks like Patrik Laine may return to the lineup tonight, which would make this Friday good as well.

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NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Anaheim Ducks
Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (29) plays for the puck against Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour (26) during the overtime period at Honda Center.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Time: 7:00 PM CDT

Channel: TSN3, FS-W

Radio: TSN1290

It’s 1:05 into the second period of the Winnipeg Jets’ game against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. Kings forward Jeff Carter wins a face-off in the Jets zone back to Kings defender Alec Martinez. Teenage phenom Patrik Laine moves between Martinez and the Jets goal and turns his body to create a bigger profile.

BANG.

Martinez’s shot slams into Laine’s left leg just above his skate, and the puck bounces into the neutral zone. Laine immediately drops to one knee, before getting up and struggling to the bench, where he stays for a minute or two, before being helped to the locker room putting no weight on his left foot. The hearts of Jets fans leap into their throats.

Is it broken?

Will he miss the playoffs?

Did Ovechkin put a voodoo curse on him?

Luckily for Jets fans, the answer to the first two questions is a hard no. The jury is still out on the third. Jets head coach Paul Maurice indicated after the game that there was nothing sinister about the injury. At the next practice, he confirm nothing was broken and that Laine would likely miss four to 14 days.

So, naturally, Laine took morning skate this morning.

There is no guarantee he laces them up tonight, but his ability to get out there this soon indicates that this is definitely a short term injury, that shouldn’t affect his ability to participate in the playoffs, and doesn’t knock him out of the Rocket Richard Trophy race just yet either. Everybody can resume breathing normally.

Luckily for Laine and the Jets (44-19-10), their opponent tonight is known for a clean, entertaining style of hockey that doesn’t get the slightest bit chippy and nobody is going to take a cheap shot at Laine.

Wait...they’re playing the Ducks? Okay, scratch that last bit.

A team with Kevin Bieksa, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Dave Manson’s kid and coached by Randy Carlyle may not be the best remedy for a bruised shin, but the Jets acquitted themselves nicely in the two games in Anaheim so far this year, so I expect the same if not better in the friendly confines of Bell MTS Place. Bieksa and Manson are also injured, so that helps a bit too.

If I was a betting man, I would say that the Anaheim Ducks (38-24-12) will lock up a playoff spot. Whether that’s a Pacific Division top 3 spot or a wildcard spot remains to be seen. They can be a tough team to play against, partially because they are rocking a .926 team save percentage this year, lead by John Gibson at .927. Gibson has three shutouts in his last nine games. The Ducks have rattled off four straight wins to have them currently sitting in the second wildcard spot, just one point back of the Kings with a game in hand.

The Ducks are lead in scoring by Rickard Rakell, who keeps on getting better with age. He’s one of the reasons why the Ducks narrowly edged the Jets for top spot in James Gordon’s recent article for The Athletic on NHL draft performance from 2011 to 2015. Rakell went 30th overall in that draft, but is 88 career points back of the guy who went 7th.

This will be the Jets’ fourth straight home game, having won the past three, and with two more coming up against first Nashville and then Boston. The Jets are coming off of Tuesday’s 2-1 OT win over L.A., where Kyle Connor did all the scoring. The Ducks most recently roasted the Flames in Calgary 4-0, as they are currently on a four game Western Canadian road trip.

Connor Hellebuyck’s recent numbers have been stellar, and look for him to get the nod in net tonight. Paul Maurice had said he wanted Eric Comrie to see action in three or four games before the season ends. I would hazard a guess at the remaining games being in Chicago and then one of the back-to-back against Montreal and Ottawa.

This is the third game between the teams this year. Winnipeg won 4-1 in November, before losing 4-3 in shootout in January.

Winnipeg Jets: 44-19-10

Stat Leaders:

Goals: Patrik Laine (43)

Assists: Blake Wheeler (62)

Points: Wheeler (81)

Goalie Stat Leaders:

Wins: Connor Hellebuyck (36)

Goals Against Average: Hellebuyck (2.34)

Save Percentage: Hellebuyck (.925)

Minutes: Hellebuyck (3,533)

Special Teams: PP 23.3% (4th), PK 83.1% (5th)

Anaheim Ducks: 38-24-12

Stat Leaders:

Goals: Rickard Rakell (31)

Assists: Ryan Getzlaf (45)

Points: Rakell (63)

Goalie Stat Leaders:

Wins: John Gibson (29)

Goals Against Average: Gibson (2.41)

Save Percentage: Gibson (.927)

Minutes: Gibson (3,162)

Special Teams: PP 17.9% (22nd), PK 83.1% (4th)

PREDICTION: JETS 3 DUCKS 0

OPPONENT’S BLOG: ANAHEIM CALLING