Jets and Sabres set for big clash

- March 5th, 2012

Two teams on a roll and in the midst of a big playoff push in the Eastern Conference standings go head-to-head on Monday night at 7 p.m. at MTS Centre as the Winnipeg Jets close out an eight-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Jets are 4-1-2 on this homestand so far and coming off a convincing 7-0 triumph over the Florida Panthers last Thursday.

The Sabres, meanwhile, have won three straight — including a strong performance in a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night — and are 6-0-2 in their past eight and sitting just two points behind the Jets. This is the final leg of a five-game road swing for the Sabres.

“We’ve got a lot of tough games here, especially this one tonight. We’ve got a hot team coming in here that is right behind us,” said Jets centre Jim Slater. “It’s another big game or us. They’re playing with a lot of confidence and they’ve beaten some good teams on this stretch here.”

It’s a great goaltending match-up, with Ryan Miller going for the Sabres and Ondrej Pavelec between the pipes for the Jets.

Defenceman Grant Clitsome, claimed off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets last week, makes his Jets debut in place of Zach Bogosian (lower-body) and will be paired with Ron Hainsey.

Clitsome watched Thursday’s 7-0 win over the Panthers and feels ready to go after getting a few practices under his belt.

“I’m just going to try and keep it simple, get my feet under me, get my feet back and build on that,” said Clitsome, noting that communication is paramount when you’re trying to get used to playing with a new defence partner.

This is the fourth and final game of the season series and the Jets hold a 2-1 edge so far, though two of the three tilts have gone into OT (with each team winning once — Thomas Vanek capped a 6-5 win on Nov. 8 and Johnny Oduya buried an Evander Kane feed back on Jan. 7.

The Jets also earned a 4-1 win on Jan. 19 at MTS Centre.

It will be interesting to see former Manitoba Moose centre Cody Hodgson play his fourth game for the Sabres. He’s been longing for Top-6 minutes and he’s about five or more minutes per ice time since the deal that shipped him from the Vancouver Canucks to the Sabres.

Hodgson was in great spirits when he met the media on Monday morning, noting he was happy to be back in the city where his professional career began and thrilled to see Winnipeg get an NHL team.

Sabres, D-man Robyn Regehr is hoping to return to the lineup, though head coach Lindy Ruff officially called him a “game-time decision.”

If he can’t go, look for Alexander Sulzer to stay in.

Here’s how we expect both teams to start the contest:

Winnipeg Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler

Evander Kane-Alex Burmistrov-Kyle Wellwood

Tanner Glass-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn

Tim Stapleton-Nik Antropov-Antti Miettinen

Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien

Ron Hainsey-Grant Clitsome

Mark Stuart-Randy Jones

Ondrej Pavelec (Chris Mason)

Buffalo Sabres

Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville

Tyler Ennis-Cody Hodgson-Drew Stafford

Nathan Gerbe-Ville Leino-Patrick Kaleta

Matt Ellis-Brad Boyes-Corey Tropp

Jordan Leopold-Tyler Myers

Andrej Sekera-Robyn Regehr

Mike Weber-Christian Ehrhoff

Ryan Miller (Jhonas Enroth)

Categories: Hockey

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