NEWARK, N.J. — To be frank, I’m very curious to see how the Winnipeg Jets respond after dropping a 5-3 decision on Saturday afternoon to the Philadelphia Flyers.
To this point, the Jets are 2-1 on this road trip. Could they find a way to win the final two and finish 4-1? It’s entirely possible.
But if they’re not sharp, they could easily finish the trip off at 2-3. That’s the nature of the beast during a condensed schedule, where all teams are hungry to pick up points.
That’s to take nothing away from the way the Jets have played here on the road trip. They’ve battled hard and 5-on-5, they were pretty good against the Flyers. But lousy special teams — 0-for-4 on the power play along with three power play goals allowed — was a recipe for disaster on Saturday.
First and foremost, the Jets need to be disciplined against the Devils on Sunday. They also need to find a way to have the power play against generate some positive momentum.
The Devils penalty killing unit has been struggling of late as well, so we’ll see what happens on that front here.
Indeed, Antti Miettinen is going to make his season debut on Sunday.
With Kyle Wellwood struggling to find the game he showcased last season, it would make sense to throw Miettinen into the lineup on a unit with Olli Jokinen, who scored a goal Saturday (to snap a nine-game point streak) and was skating much better.
After the game, Jokinen was lamenting a few of his shots that sailed over the net and not taking much solace in scoring his third goal of the campaign.
Can the Finnish connection of Jokinen and Miettinen find some magic together. Only time will tell, but it’s certainly worth a shot.
Eric Tangradi has been playing with Jokinen regularly, but with James Wright coming on strong, Noel might consider trying to get a little more speed on that line by giving Wright a bump.
Meanwhile, the Devils are sure to be in an angry mood themselves after getting bounced 5-1 by the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon in a game that saw Winkler product Eric Fehr pick up his fourth goal of the season — and the first shorthanded goal of his NHL career.
Ondrej Pavelec is between the pipes for the Jets, but there’s a late change for Devils as Martin Brodeur left ice late in warmup, giving Johan Hedberg the start.
Winnipegger Travis Zajac is off to a bit of a slow start offensively after signing a contract extension prior to the season. Zajac has three goals and five points (the exact same numbers as Jokinen) and found himself with new linemates on Sunday in David Clarkson and Patrik Elias.
Ilya Kovalchuk has six goals and eight points in eight games since he was traded to the Devils by the Thrashers. Containing him will be a key for the Jets.
In case you were wondering, the Devils have won the past five home-ice meetings vs the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise, with their last loss coming back on October 16 of 2009.
Puck drop is set for just after 4 p.m.
Here’s how we project both teams to start:
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Nik Antropov
James Wright, Olli Jokinen, Antii Miettinen
Eric Tangradi, Jim Slater, Anthony Peluso
Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart, Paul Postma
Ondrej Pavelec (Eddie Pasquale)
Bobby Butler, Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson
Krys Barch, Jacob Josephson, Stephen Gionta,
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Andrei Lokitonov, Steve Bernier
Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene, Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov, Mark Fayne
Martin Brodeur (Johan Hedberg)