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Preview: Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators

Biggest game of the year? Biggest game of the year!

NHL: Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Where to watch/listen

Broadcast Schedule
Broadcast Schedule
Time: 7:00 P.M. CDT
Radio: TSN1290, KFAN 100.3

The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators will face-off tonight for the fourth and final time on the 2018-19 NHL regular season calendar. The Jets return home after a three-game road trip that saw them beat the Los Angeles Kings, shutout the Anaheim Ducks and fail to score against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Their opponent tonight sits just two points back in the Central Division standings, albeit with a game in hand. That said, this game still holds massive implications for the playoff picture in the Central, with a regulation win for either team doing a great deal of damage to the other’s chances of raising the Central Division championship banner. The Jets currently hold a four-win advantage in the regulation and overtime wins department, which would be the first tiebreaker.

The first two games of the season series occurred in Nashville, with the Predators winning 3-0 before the Jets responded with a 5-1 win in January and a 5-3 win earlier this month on home ice.

Though not quite the dominant forces they were last season, these teams are both in consideration as Stanley Cup contenders. Both had goalies who finished in the top two in Vezina voting (with Pekka Rinne beating Connor Hellebuyck) who have regressed this season, which contributed to their step backwards in the league standings.

Nashville is not a team that dazzles with offensive prowess, sitting 14th in goals for and 30th in power play. However, they surrender the seventh fewest shots against per game and have allowed the fourth fewest goals, as they play a style of hockey that is difficult to play against. While they have a few decent players up front, the fact that 60 points are all it takes to lead their team in scoring suggests that they aren’t an offensive juggernaut. However, their defence has generally been terrific and is a major factor in their success. That said, Winnipeg has done fairly well against them in their last 10 meetings including the playoffs.

Despite a kick in the teeth loss to Vegas on Thursday night, Winnipeg had been doing fairly well lately, coming off of a four-game win streak, and are 6-4-0 in their last 10, despite getting outshot in seven of those matches. The Jets are banged up on the back-end, with Josh Morrissey, Dustin Byfuglien, Nathan Beaulieu and now Laurent Brossoit on the mend. The timelines for recovery seem to indicate that these players will be back by the playoffs (with the exception of Brossoit, because I haven’t heard of a timetable for him yet), so it’s not all bad news for the Jets on that front.

Blake Wheeler is on pace for about 98 points, Mark Scheifele is on pace for 89, and Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are both threatening the 30-goal plateau, each sitting at 29. Connor Hellebuyck has been playing better of late, including picking up his first shutout of the year in the win over Anaheim on Wednesday. He may be seeing more than his usual share of action this year if Laurent Brossoit is out for an extended period of time unless Eric Comrie can be trusted to step into that gap. Comrie was called up by the team on Friday in case Brossoit is not ready to go. Comrie has posted a record of 23-16-4, with a .916 save percentage, a 2.75 goals against average and two shutouts for the Manitoba Moose this year.

Tale of the Tape

Winnipeg Jets Stats San Jose Sharks
Winnipeg Jets Stats San Jose Sharks
1-0-0 Series 0-1-0
14-9-1 Record 13-11-1
29 Points 27
3rd Central Division 4th Pacific
5th West Conference 8th West
4-1-0 Last 5 4-1-0
68 Goals For 73
73 Goals Against 83
Regular Season
Nikolaj Ehlers (11) Goals Evander Kane (12)
Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele (14) Assists Logan Couture (20)
Scheifele (22) Points Couture (25)
Connor Hellebuyck (11) Wins Martin Jones (10)
Hellebuyck (2.42) Goals Against Average Jones (3.18)
Hellebuyck (.928) Save Percentage Aaron Dell (.897)
15.5 (24th) Power Play % 19.5 (14th)
72.2 (29th) Penalty Kill % 91.4 (1st)

Enemy Territory

Nashville Predators Coverage: On The Forecheck

Last Jets Game:

Winnipeg Jets 0-5 Vegas Golden Knights

Maybe we just don’t talk about this one, how ‘bout that?

Last Predators Game:

Nashville Predators 1-2 (SO) Pittsburgh Penguins

Matt Murray saved 28 of 29 and Nashville failed to score in the shootout, as the Preds lost this one despite Pekka Rinne stopping 32 of 33 and only allowing one in the shootout. He wasn’t named a star of the game, despite the game being in Nashville. I don’t know what to make of that.

Players to watch:

Winnipeg Jets

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights
Pretty sure I had a Starting Lineup Patrick Roy figurine in almost this exact pose
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

One man...alone...

Connor Hellebuyck has played the sixth most minutes of any NHL goalie this season, and if Laurent Brossoit is out for any period of time, he might rise in those rankings. Hellebuyck played 93 minutes on Wednesday and Thursday combined. I was concerned that his drop in form during the playoffs last year was due to fatigue, and this doesn’t ease those concerns at all.

Nashville Predators

NHL: Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

With four points in his last 15 games, and 25 in 56 games in total this year, P.K. Subban is on pace to have his lowest point total in an NHL season since his first campaign in which he scored two points in two games. The defender missed 19 games with an upper-body injury in November and December. He had 12 points in 18 games prior to the injury but 13 in 38 since. He’s scoring 4.8% of his shots on net, which is below his career average of 6.1%. Perhaps he can channel some of the good fortunes his brother Malcolm Subban had against the Jets on Thursday.