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About "Kirk Penton"

Kirk Penton was born in Manitoba, grew up in Saskatchewan and has been back in Manitoba for the last 14 years. He has worked at the Winnipeg Sun since 2001, is married with one son and can't get enough sports into his diet.

Jets road trip, Days 5, 6 and 7

- March 31st, 2014

LOS ANGELES — Sorry for the backlog, folks. Since we last chatted the Jets lost 4-2 to the L.A. Kings, dropping their record to 33-33-9 and 1-2-0 on their five-game road trip.

The Jets were awful in the first period on Saturday night, allowing the Kings to jump out to a 3-0 lead, and that’s all they needed at Staples Center.

The team got Sunday off since they have back-to-backs coming up in Anaheim on Monday and in Phoenix on Tuesday, but the brass was still busy. The Jets recalled goalie Michael Hutchinson, and defencemen Ben Chiarot and Zach Redmond.

So now the big question is why Hutchinson is coming back. Is it because Ondrej Pavelec is hurt again? Did Al Montoya get injured during his two periods of work? We’ll find out on Monday morning in Anaheim at the Jets morning skate.

A few more thoughts as well as some pictures from the last few days …

• Monday night’s game will be Teemu Selanne’s last game against the Jets, and there should be a ton of Winnipeg fans in attendance at Honda Center to say goodbye to the Finnish Flash. I’ll talk to him on Monday morning to get his thoughts on the contest.

• Maybe the Jets performed so poorly in the first period on Saturday night because they were spooked by all the seismic activity going on in southern California. A 5.1 earthquake struck the area on Friday night, and then there was a 4.1 shaker on Saturday afternoon. More than a few members of the team admitted to being a little rattled by the rattling. It’s a unique feeling if you haven’t experienced one before.

• In Monday’s paper I examine the struggles of Evander Kane, although it doesn’t appear to be entirely his fault. He’s been playing on a line with players who aren’t at his level when it comes to offensive ability, and that is not helping him. Another aspect of his season I noticed was he hasn’t been the same since injuring his hand in that fight with Eric Brewer on Jan. 7.

• For those of you wondering, my calculations show there’s a chance the Jets could be eliminated from playoff contention as early as Tuesday night in Phoenix. I’ll double check that on Monday.

• That’s enough for now. Here are a few pictures from a busy weekend in SoCal …

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Flew Virgin Airlines for the first time. Groovy vibe, baby.

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There are a few hockey banners up at Staples Center.

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Apparently they play basketball here, too.

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Friday night was interesting, to say the least. I was sitting at the bar, and all of a sudden it felt like I was on a waterbed. It was over by the time I realized it was an earthquake, but the booze in the bottles still moved for several more seconds afterwards. It was the biggest quake in L.A. since 2008, so it generated plenty of buzz, even among the locals. There was another quake on Saturday afternoon, and it checked in at 4.1 on the Richter scale.

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This is L.A. Live, the area outside Staples Center that features bars, restaurants and hotels. It’s a cool area and great for before and after sporting events. There were Jets fans all over the place.

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The Jets were off on Sunday, so the Winnipeg media contingent checked out Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a very interesting part of the world. Lots of interesting characters.

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There is quite a bit of beach for the millions of people in the area to enjoy.

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The Winnipeg five rented bikes to make the two-mile journey up to the Santa Monica Pier.

Jets road trip, Day 4

- March 28th, 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. — It was one of those nights where it didn’t seem to matter which team the Jets were playing.

At times it looked like the men versus the boys as the Jets took on the Sharks, but Winnipeg did what it has done on several occasions this year: Show no fear and run with the league’s big dogs. Thanks to a splendid evening from Blake Wheeler, who had a goal and two assists, the Jets emerged with a 4-3 victory.

Toby Enstrom had the winner on the power play with 3:36 remaining in the third period on a beautiful feed from Wheeler.

A few other thoughts from Thursday in Silicon Valley:

• Dustin Byfuglien tied a career high with his 20th goal on his 29th birthday. There’s a chance the Jets could have six 20-goal scorers this season, which would be somewhat surprising but at the same time positive for the future.

• The win for the Jets didn’t gain them any ground, however, as the Phoenix Coyotes won in a shootout over New Jersey.

• The one good thing for the Jets when it comes to facing these tough Western Conference teams is a lot of them are coming off road trips themselves. The Sharks got back from Alberta late on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and the L.A. Kings are just getting back from an East Coast trip. The Ducks are in Alberta right now, too.

• The SAP Center crowd is very knowledgeable and very into the game. It’s a loud building, relatively speaking of course. There were plenty of Jets fans in the building, too, and I expect those numbers will only increase as we head to southern California.

• Wonder where the Jets go from here with Devin Setoguchi? There are only eight games remaining, but I assume they will put him back in the lineup to finish the season.

• Just realized each stop on Winnipeg’s five-game trip features a warmer climate than the one before it.

• Here are a few pictures from Thursday …

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It was a beautiful day in San Jose, home to SAP Center (aka the Shark Tank).

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Boy, it sure doesn’t take long for your family to forget about you when you’re out of town. Did some Skyping this afternoon with my kids, but they got bored quickly and left. This was my view of the ceiling for a couple of minutes.

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Since when did the U.S. have a dollar coin that is actually used in transactions?

Jets road trip, Day 3

- March 27th, 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Jets were back on the ice today, this time at the Sharks Ice practice facility. Ondrej Pavelec was back. So was captain Andrew Ladd, who didn’t skate after arriving shortly after it began.

After the brisk, 60-minute workout, head coach Paul Maurice reported Pavelec won’t play on Thursday against the Sharks. He’s been out too long and today was his first practice, so he’s going to get a little more time. Makes sense. Besides, Al Montoya was excellent — for the most part — on Monday night in Dallas.

Ladd spoke about missing his first game as a member of the Jets and briefly touched on the controversy surrounding his decision to be with his wife instead of his team. His teammates came to his defence, with Bryan Little saying he wasn’t surprised that some folks in Winnipeg were criticizing Ladd. That comment struck me, and it made me wonder what other NHLers might think.

I, of course, am now getting blamed by some for taking the words of a vocal minority and making an entire fan base and city look bad. The fact of the matter is this is what people outside of Winnipeg are hearing, that people were criticizing Ladd for going home. Do you think most of them know or care who Troy Westwood is? No. All they hear is some in Winnipeg are criticizing Ladd. That — and hearing Little say the guys in the dressing room weren’t surprised — is why I wrote the column about how this will just add to Winnipeg’s reputation as a place free agents might not look at. Don’t shoot the messenger.

As for the actual hockey, Blake Wheeler had a fantastic practice today after nearly having his arm ripped off his body on Monday night in Dallas when he got hammered into the open Dallas bench door.

And now, a couple of pictures from my Wednesday in San Jose, which started off with rain but turned into a gorgeous evening with plenty of sun.

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It sure pays to drive a hybrid car in California. Is this the case anywhere else? Is it like this in Winnipeg?

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Here’s the Sharks Ice practice facility, which is right across the street from the San Jose State football stadium. It has the look and feel of the Highlander in Winnipeg. There are three rinks in the facility.

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Here is the Winnipeg media hard at work while the Jets are on the ice practising. We’re in the restaurant at the Sharks Ice facility, which is called Stanley’s. Are they allowed to name it that considering they haven’t won a Cup?

Jets road trip, Day 2

- March 26th, 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tuesday was a travel day, as the “Elimination Tour” headed from Texas to California. Too harsh? The Jets can’t be eliminated from playoff contention on this trip, but it’s only a matter of time.

The flight from Dallas to San Jose is nearly four hours long, which is strange considering Texas is in the middle of the country. Anyway, I landed in San Jose around noon and was greeted by drizzly but relatively warm conditions. No complaining here.

The Jets, meanwhile, were up in San Francisco, enjoying a day off. The new CBA says each team gets one day off per week. San Fran is a nice place to spend it, I’d say.

As for hockey, there was no availability, of course, so I took a look at Winnipeg’s depth woes and Blake Wheeler’s gutsy performance on Monday night in Dallas. The team’s lack of depth has been discussed quite a bit, and never was it more evident on Monday night. There’s just not enough talent available to help the team when a few regulars go down. Has Kevin Cheveldayoff done enough in that department. It looks like he’s trying, but he could probably speed it up a bit.

Here are a few more thoughts and images from Day 2 of the five-game road trip:

• The Jets will practise on Wednesday in San Jose to gear up for their tilt with the Sharks on Thursday night. The Sharks pumped the Oilers 5-2 on Tuesday night, and Joe Pavelski had his third hat-trick of the season. The Jets would kill for one.

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Come on, Canadian airlines! It’s time. Let’s get wi-fi on board north of the border.

Read more…

Jets road trip, Day 1

- March 25th, 2014

DALLAS — The opening game of the Jets’ five-game road trip didn’t go as they had hoped, falling 2-1 to the Dallas Stars. Winnipeg is now seven points back of Phoenix with nine games to go.

Here is a recap of the day, including pictures!

• Head coach Paul Maurice after the game was very happy with his team’s effort, which was nice of him to do. The Jets were missing a lot of talent due to injuries and babies being born, but the effort wasn’t THAT good. For most of the second period it didn’t look like the Jets were in the game as much as they should have been. They poured in on in the third period, but it was too late.

• Blake Wheeler, who got hammered into an open door on the Dallas bench, returned to finish the game, but he wasn’t made available for interviews after the game. He’s probably going to be OK if the trainers allowed him to come back into the contest.

• The Jets re-assigned Carl Klingberg to the St. John’s IceCaps after calling him up earlier in the day.

• How does an NHL team take three too many men penalties in two games? Good question, Kirk, but the Jets have managed to do it. It didn’t burn them on Saturday night, but on Monday night the Stars took advantage and scored … and ended up winning by one goal.

• Al Montoya stopped 25 shots and made a couple of nice saves, but I think he’s rattled. He couldn’t catch an easy flip from centre ice, and another time he stopped a shot with his right arm but had no idea where it went to after that. Maurice didn’t have an update on Ondrej Pavelec after the game.

• And now time for some photos. I checked out Dealey Plaza after the morning skate. It was interesting being there, having seen it on TV so many times. There is even an X on the street, marking the spot where JFK was assassinated in 1963. I didn’t have time to check out the museum in the old Texas School Book Depository, but apparently it’s very good.

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The spot where Kennedy was shot.

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Looking back at the Texas School Book Depository.

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Now THAT’s a banner! Apparently they’re having some basketball tournament here in a couple of weeks.

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Here is the plaza outside American Airlines Center. There’s a picture in the AAC of this area after the Mavericks won the NBA title. It was shoulder to shoulder.

OK, off to bed for a flight to San Jose in the morning. The Jets are off tomorrow so there won’t be much news, but we’ll still have plenty of coverage coming your way. Also, check back for the Day 2 recap of the Jets road trip.

Jets ready for Stars

- March 24th, 2014

DALLAS — They will do it without their captain, however, as left winger Andrew Ladd is back in Winnipeg with his wife and brand new baby daughter, who was born on Sunday night.

The Jets are six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with 10 games to go. Here are a few thoughts as they begin to kick off a five-game road trip tonight:

• Head coach Paul Maurice was asked about his team’s poor play of late, and here’s what he boiled it down to. When they were winning when he first got here, they were focusing only on defence. Then they started losing when they started focusing more on offence. The offence is getting better, but that means the defence is now suffering.

• Wonder if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff thinks the same way.

• Maurice did note, however, that the goaltending has to be better. He paused for about five seconds before saying that they need more saves. Looked like he didn’t want to say it or was just making sure he didn’t say the goaltending was “just OK.”

• That was for all you poor Leaf fans out there.

• The Jets were pretty upbeat during today’s morning skate. I think that’s a good thing.

• Lindy Ruff had some nice things to say about Winnipeg boys Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt today. I’ll have that in tomorrow’s Sun.

• This will be the first game Ladd misses since he was an Atlanta Thrasher in 2010-11. Ladd missed a game in Tampa on Jan. 23, 2011, due to a lower body injury and the Thrashers got thrashed 7-1.

• No one will wear the C tonight, as Maurice said that is a privilege bestowed upon one person unless the captain is out with a long-term injury. An extra player with wear an assistant’s A. Maurice was going to meet with his leaders this afternoon to determine who that will be.

• Zach Bogosian (upper body) didn’t skate this morning, and Maurice said he is doubtful for tonight.

• Here is Winnipeg’s expected lineup tonight:
Kane-Little-Frolik
Byfuglien-Jokinen-Wheeler
O’Dell-Slater-Setoguchi
Tangradi-Cormier-Halischuk

Enstrom-Ellerby
Stuart-Trouba
Pardy-Postma

Montoya (Hutchinson)

 

Jets try to avoid Avalanche

- March 10th, 2014

DENVER — The Jets will tangle with the Avs in a few hours at Pepsi Center. It should feel like a playoff game for the Jets for a variety of reasons.

First of all, they’re five points out of a playoff spot and have 17 games remaining. They can’t dilly-dally any longer. Also, it’s 20 C in Denver today. That’s playoff weather, baby.

A few more tidbits to get you ready for tonight’s tilt:

• The Jets have jumbled their lines for tonight. Michael Frolik, despite dominating the face-off circle over the last two games, is going back to right wing on a line with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd. The Jets could definitely use him in the middle, but Paul Maurice figures too much line juggling has caused his team to lose its defensive mojo. That’s why everyone is going back to play their normal positions. Guess that makes sense considering how offensively gifted the Avs are this season.

• Jim Slater gets a promotion to the second or third line, depending on what you think the second and third lines are. Slater is between Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler, while the trio of Olli Jokinen, Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi remains together.

• Jeez, who knew the loss of a rookie centre could cause so much trouble throughout a roster, like Mark Scheifele has done?

• Maurice said something interesting this morning. He noted that most organizations are bubbling over with players who have spent at least some time playing centre. So if you ever have an injury there’s usually someone who can jump right in. That’s not the case with the Jets, which Maurice chalked up to the fact they’re the NHL’s youngest team. I don’t know. Shouldn’t the Jets have more depth at such an important position by now? It’s been three years.

• The Avs will be without Paul Stastny, who has a wonky back. That’s not terrible news for the Jets. Nathan MacKinnon, who just a couple years ago was playing in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge at MTS Iceplex, will move from wing to centre. MacKinnon is a pretty modest kid considering he’s probably going to be the NHL’s best player in a few years.

• MacKinnon last week broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for consecutive games with a point by an 18-year-old. He said he took being mentioned in the same sentence as The Great One with “a grain of salt.” Don’t know about you, but I’d put that on my business card.

• Here are the line combos:
Winnipeg
Ladd-Little-Frolik
Kane-Jokinen-Setoguchi
Byfuglien-Slater-Wheeler
Tangradi-Albert-Peluso
Colorado
O’Reilly-Duchene-Parenteau
McGinn-MacKinnon-Landeskog
Talbot-Mitchell-Cliche
McLeod-Bordeleau (the Avs are dressing 7 D)

 

The big one is here

- April 23rd, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As far as their franchise history goes, they probably don’t come much bigger than this one for the Winnipeg Jets.

Going back a few years to their days in Atlanta, the current Jets usually put up a good fight but were never really this close to the post-season — aside from the ones who made the playoffs in 2007. The Jets can get really serious about making the playoffs tonight with a win over the Capitals at Verizon Center.

The Caps can wrap up the Southeast with a regulation or overtime win. The Jets can’t clinch anything, but they can certainly scare them with a victory of their own and maybe even pull out the division title. Winnipeg plays against Montreal on Thursday, while Washington finishes against Ottawa and Boston. Those aren’t slam dunks for the Capitals.

Here are a few more pre-game thoughts …

• There were 16 Jets on the ice for the optional morning skate. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but I’m thinking some of them had to burn off some nervous energy.

• Nik Antropov wasn’t talking after the skate because he didn’t know if he was going to be playing or not. I’d put money on Antropov getting the nod in place of the injured Kyle Wellwood, who broke his hand on Monday night in Buffalo.

• According to my calculations, first place in the Southeast (also known as the Washington route) is the second best way into the playoffs for the Jets. The Ottawa route is still the best.

• The Jets have recorded at least one point in seven straight games, which ties them for the second best mark in franchise history. If they can pick up a point tonight, it would be one game shy of the franchise record of nine straight without a regulation loss.

• Verizon Center promises to be a madhouse tonight. Caps fans will come dressed in red and ready to make some noise. It’s a large building, though, so the Jets might be able to suck the life out of the place with a couple of quick goals early.

• Alex Ovechkin, who is the hottest player on the planet right now, is hoping the Caps get a boost from their fans. “We’re going to use it to the maximum that we can,” he said after his team’s morning skate in Arlington, Va. “It’s always nice to play at home in that kind of position and the situation as well. I hope the fans are going to be the best tonight.”

• Ovechkin is red hot, but Troy Brouwer isn’t far behind. He has six goals in his last five games.

• Winnipeg has to watch out for Washington’s power play, for obvious reasons. Ovechkin and Co. have seven PP tallies in their last five games.

• If the Capitals win in regulation or overtime tonight, they will snag their fifth Southeast Division title in six years.

• Tonight is the last regular-season Southeast Division game for the Jets. I’m thinking the Jets are going to miss the Southeast next year because of the teams, and the people who cover the team are going to miss the Southeast next year, too, but only because of the weather.

• Adam Oates didn’t mince words when asked about the Jets playing on back-to-back nights. He hopes and thinks it’s going to hurt them. “We’ve had the benefit of a little bit of rest that they haven’t, so hopefully it’ll show itself.”

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• If you’re ever looking for the Capitals practice facility, it’s on the eighth floor of a mall in Arlington, Va.

• Here are my guesses for tonight’s line combinations and defence pairings. Not sure what the Jets are going to do up front assuming Antropov goes in:
WINNIPEG
Forwards
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, Nik Antropov, James Wright
Eric Tangradi, Alex Burmistrov, Mike Santorelli
Antti Miettinen, Aaron Gagnon, Chris Thorburn
Defence
Derek Meech, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome
Mark Stuart, Paul Postma
Goalies
Ondrej Pavelec
Al Montoya

WASHINGTON
Forwards
Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin
Martin Erat, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault, Eric Fehr
Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, Aaron Volpatti
Defence
Mike Green, Karl Alzner
John Carlson, John Erskine
Jack Hillen, Steve Olesky
Goalies
Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Jets 2, Sabres 1

- April 22nd, 2013

BUFFALO — The game that everyone has been looking at for the last couple of weeks has finally arrived.

Winnipeg at Washington. Verizon Center. Tuesday, April 23. 7 p.m.

The Washington Capitals can lock up a playoff spot with a victory over the Jets, because they would be three points up and Winnipeg would have only one game left. The Jets would still have avenues to the playoffs ahead of the Senators, Rangers and Islanders even if they lose, but a win would put the Caps in chase mode.

“What we’ve done these last five or six games means nothing,” Evander Kane said. “We gotta get ready for (Tuesday).”

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts from Monday’s game against the Sabres and the huge clash with the Caps:

• Kyle Wellwood suffered a hand injury that will keep him out “long term,” according to head coach Claude Noel. Wellwood blocked a Thomas Vanek shot with his right hand in the second period, and you can only assume there’s a broken bone in there somewhere. Oddly, it’s the second straight year he’s suffered a season-ending injury in the last week of the season.

• As for the Sabres game, the Jets deserve credit for sticking to it. Jhonas Enroth was stubborn all night long, but Antti Miettinen, who had been scratched from the last six games, scored the winner with seven and a half minutes to go.

• The Jets needed to win the game, and they should have won the game, and they did the game. That being said, they need to be much better on Tuesday night. “It wasn’t the easiest game for us,” Miettinen said. “To be able to win that is great. We just gotta be a little better when we go into Washington.”

• Blake Wheeler probably could have had a few goals on Monday night, but he was foiled by Enroth. Wheeler also took a lazy hooking penalty that led to Buffalo’s only goal on the power play.

• Evander Kane admitted he’s not 100%, which is obvious considering he has stopped participating in morning skates. “I don’t think anybody this time of the year,” he said. “You gotta play through some injuries and through some pain. This is the time of the season where you gotta step up and play for your teammates.”

• The Jets had a little fun with rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba on Monday. They apparently took his helmet from him and then made him lead the team out for the pre-game skate. And of course they stopped behind him and let him step onto the ice and skate for a while before joining him. Trouba took the skate but didn’t play in the game.

• Ondrej Pavelec’s best save of the night was his glove hand robbery of Vanek with five minutes to go. Pavelec admitted he just put his glove there and Vanek hit it. He’s being modest. He was in pretty good position and showed plenty of patience.

• Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference playoff race. I still think Ottawa is the best path to the playoffs for the Jets.

*3. Washington Capitals (52 pts, 3 GR) — HOME (3): Winnipeg, Ottawa, Boston; AWAY (0)
6. New York Islanders (53 pts, 3 GR) — HOME (0); AWAY (3): Carolina, Philadelphia, Buffalo
7. New York Rangers (52 pts, 3 GR) — HOME (1): New Jersey; AWAY (2): Florida, Carolina
8. Ottawa Senators (52 points, 3 GR) — HOME (1): Philadelphia. AWAY (2): Boston, Washington
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*9. Winnipeg (51 pts, 2 GR) — HOME (1): Montreal; AWAY (1): Washington

• Noel made it sound like Nik Antropov will be returning to the lineup in place of Wellwood on Tuesday night. It would probably be best to have him in there, considering he’s probably been in similar, pressure-packed situations a few times. Jim Slater is not yet ready to go as he recovers from a broken hand.

• I’ll be flying to Washington on Tuesday morning, so stay tuned to my Twitter feed for updates leading up to the big game.

Thoughts from Buffalo

- April 22nd, 2013

BUFFALO — It’s a nice, sunny day here in the Niagara region, and the Jets hope to feel the same way after tonight’s game against the Sabres.

It’s just the opposite with the Sabres. The situation around the team has been described as “toxic” on more than one occasion by the local media lately, so they should be in disarray. They got pummelled 8-4 by the Rangers on Friday night, and goaltender Ryan Miller was mocked by the fans. Everyone thinks he’s done here in Buffalo. The situation is not good — unless you’re the Jets and their fans. There are no excuses for Winnipeg tonight, who will face Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth.

A few other thoughts before tonight’s tilt …

• There were tons of players on the ice at the Jets morning skate, including Jim Slater, Nik Antropov, Anthony Peluso and Zach Redmond, who was officially recalled from his conditioning stint today. It doesn’t sound like Redmond will be getting into a game any time soon, though. Head coach Claude Noel wants the defenceman to get his strength up, and then they’ll go from there. Unless they make the playoffs, it sounds like the next time we see Redmond in a Jets uniform will be next year.

• Derek Meech and Antti Miettinen will draw into the lineup tonight in place of the injured Zach Bogosian and Olli Jokinen. Meech will be paired with Byfuglien, so he knows what he’ll have to do. “He likes to get up on the rush, so I’m going to have to focus on a little more of the defensive side of things and take it from there,” Meech said.

• James Wright will centre the second line between Evander Kane and Kyle Wellwood. He spent plenty of extra time this morning practising his draws after going 0-for-5 on Saturday. “I had a tough game last game,” Wright said. “Usually I’m better than that, but I got Welly I can count on to take face-offs, too. But it’s definitely a lot easier when you’re starting with the puck.” Wright played centre quite a bit in the AHL this year and was also in the middle when he played for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.

• Andrew Ladd was named the NHL’s first star of the week today after recording two goals and six assists in three games. He also scored a pair of shootout goals. Ladd needs just four points in the final three games to tie his point total of 50 from last season, and that was in 82 games.

• It was easy to tell that Ladd is still more than a little peeved that Kyle Okposo got away with his hit on Zach Bogosian on Saturday. Okposo appeared to deliver a rising hit on Bogosian that made first contact with his head, and now No. 44 is out of the lineup with a suspected concussion. Okposo, meanwhile, got no penalty during the game or afterwards. “It’s tough. We lose one of our best players,” Ladd said. “As a player, I guess you feel a hit to the head is a hit to the head. That’s a tough one to take, especially this time of year when we really need him in the lineup. And that’s a team we’re battling for the playoffs with, and they still have their guy playing. So I don’t know. I don’t really have much more to say about that, but it’s tough to lose Zach.”

• If you want the Jets to make the playoffs, you’re cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins to beat the Ottawa Senators tonight.

• Here’s my best guess at tonight’s line combinations and defence pairings:

WINNIPEG
Forwards
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, James Wright, Kyle Wellwood
Eric Tangradi, Alex Burmistrov, Antti Miettinen
Mike Santorelli, Aaron Gagnon, Chris Thorburn
Defence
Derek Meech, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome
Mark Stuart, Paul Postma
Goalies
Ondrej Pavelec
Al Montoya

BUFFALO
Forwards
Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek
Steve Ott, Kevin Porter, Brian Flynn
Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, John Scott
Drew Stafford, Mikhail Grigorenko, Marcus Foligno
Defence
Christian Ehrhoff, Andrej Sekera
Adam Pardy, Mark Pysyk
Mike Weber, Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies
Jhonas Enroth
Ryan Miller