Thursday, 16 January 2014

In enemy territory, again

Tonight the Winnipeg Jets make their return to Alberta for the 4th time this year (including preseason) and I will be in the house. Expectations are that there may in fact be as many Jets fans in attendance tonight as there is Flames fans. The reality of their situation has finally hit home and Flames fans are selling tickets in droves. Historically, it is a very quiet, corporate building in the first place, so if the Jets get off to a great start it could be a "home" game for the Jets in short order. 

Tonight will mark the first game we get to see the "Paul Maurice influence" on his new team. They have only had a short time together to  practise, do film, and implement systems so I wouldn't expect to see massive change in their structure. That being said it will be interesting to see how they approach the game. According to practise lines, Maurice is trying to construct three lines that can score, moving Wheeler away from the top line and lining Dustin Byfuglien up with Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi. Chris Thorburn has been moved up to the second line in place of Evander Kane, I assume until he is healthy. 

Still no official word yet from the Jets on who will start tonight. I find this the most fascinating aspect of this team moving forward to be how they handle the goalies. Obviously Ondrej Pavelec is signed to the big deal and is/has been "the guy". "The guy" is going to need to pull his socks up quickly before he loses his job. If you listen to the trade chatter outside of the Winnipeg market, Pavelec is often listed as the teams biggest weakness. Is it the system, the chances in front of him, or strictly his play? Combo of all three I presume but his numbers are far inferior to that of Al Montoya who has earned a raise for next year. 

The Flames are struggling, badly. Their offence has long since dried up after they enjoyed a hot start to the season. They have 6 wins in 23 games on home ice and are 2-8 in their last 10. Simply put, if the Jets think they still have a playoff chance (they don't), then they have to win this game tonight. Jiri Hudler who has been one of he Flames best players this year is still mad about his bizarre exclusion from his countries Olympic team and has been playing mad ever since. The Jets need to keep him off the board and they should be able to win this one going away. A repeat of the effort they put up Monday against the Coyotes should guarantee a win.

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