Jets and Sabres ready for battle

- February 19th, 2013

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There should be no shortage of desperation on Tuesday night when the Winnipeg Jets open a five-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Just two points separate the two clubs in the standings (with the Jets holding two games in hand) and the two squads are facing some of the same challenges.

“In the past, it seems like it’s been pretty unpredictable,” said Jets centre Bryan Little, who had seven points in four games against the Sabres last season. “We’ve played well against them and I remember we’ve gotten blown out in this building. They’re the type of team where if you’re not playing well, they can take advantage of you and it could get out of hand. We’re all aware of that.”

The Jets lost three straight during a homestand last week, but have turned the page and are looking to snap out of this funk.

“We really need a good start,” said Little. “We haven’t been playing bad, but our starts haven’t been great the past couple of games. It would be really nice to go out and get the first goal, that would be huge for us. That’s a big part of the game. It seems like we’re always trying to play catch-up in the past few games and come back late in the game. It would be really nice to get a lead in the first period.”

Special teams have been a big factor of late, with the Jets having issues with both their power play and 30th-ranked penalty kill.

“Our PK and power play have been struggling a bit but it could break out every day,” said Little. “We’ve talked about it a lot and we’re trying to change things. I feel like the PK has been doing a better job, other than the goal the other night. We all sense that we have to be better on the power play as well.

“You never know, you can not be doing well for a couple games and then, get two or three power play goals. That’s just how it works and we’ve got to keep at it.”

Following the morning skate, Jets head coach Claude Noel told reporters that he was inserting Grant Clitsome for rookie Zach Redmond for the game.

Redmond has been playing pretty well in his eight games, but his outing against the Boston Bruins on Sunday wasn’t his best. As Noel pointed out, sometimes it’s good for a young player to sit back and watch a game. This doesn’t mean Noel has lost faith in Redmond either, it’s another teaching tool and Redmond should be back in the lineup during this five-game road trip.

It was interesting to hear some of the Sabres talk about two topics on Tuesday, the first being the fiery rant from goalie Ryan Miller after the team lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the second, a hot start from Thomas Vanek, a power forward who goes into tonight’s action as the leading scorer in the NHL (12 goals, 25 points).

Also spoke with former Manitoba Moose centre Cody Hodgson bout a variety of subjects, including playing on a line with Vanek.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Hodgson. “When he wants to score, he’s got that intensity to him that not many guys can stop. He’s really strong on the puck, he’s smart.”

Hodgson also reflected on what it was like to finally become a No. 1 centre at the NHL level.

“I’m playing with some amazing linemates, they’re a pleasure to play with and they’re always open and creating offence,” said Hodgson, who also skates with Sabres captain Jason Pominville. “It’s been a lot of fun so far and hopefully it continues.”

The Jets will certainly need to contain the Vanek line if they have designs on ending this losing streak.

The Sabres have endured some issues on the power play as well, so they’re inserting TJ Brennan, who has a big shot and was having an excellent season with the Rochester Americans during the NHL lockout.

Here’s how we expect both teams to start on Tuesday.

JETS
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Nik Antropov
Eric Tangradi, Olli Jokinen, Kyle Wellwood
James Wright, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn

Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart, Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec (Eddie Pasquale)

SABRES

Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, Patrick Kaleta
Steve Ott, Jochen Hecht, Nathan Gerbe
John Scott, Cody McCormick, Drew Stafford

Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Sulzer
Robyn Regehr, Tyler Myers
Mike Weber, TJ Brennan

Ryan Miller (Jhonas Enroth)

Categories: Hockey

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