Jets face Rangers, will trip be good or great?

- February 26th, 2013

NEW YORK — No matter what happens this evening at Madison Square Garden, the Winnipeg Jets longest road trip of the 2013 season will be deemed a success.

No doubt about it.

But the difference between a good and a great trip is significant.

When the Jets hit the road nine days ago after dropping three consecutive games on home ice, there was some idle chatter about the Jets being a candidate to be in the Seth Jones sweepstakes for the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

After going 3-1 to get to this point of the five-game road swing, the Jets are back in the discussion to capture the Southeast Division title.

Morale is certainly up inside the Jets dressing room. Angst and negativity has been replaced by joy.

“When you’re out on the road and you have some success, it’s a lot more fun,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “Winning cures a lot of things. It’s nice getting going in the right direction and you try to ride it out as long as you can. When you’re having success and doing things the right way, it becomes contagious and everyone wants to be part of it.

“But you can’t take a deep breath and be satisfied with where you’re at. We’re still fighting to put ourselves in a playoff position and that continues tonight.”

Standing in front of them are the New York Rangers and while it’s been a bit of a slow start fro the Broadway Blueshirts, this is a team that swept the Jets in four meetings, outscored them 12-3 overall and didn’t allow a goal to the Jets in two meetings at fabled MSG last season.

“We know how they play, we know their situation here,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “They know how to win, let’s be real. They’ve done it all of last year. I’m sure they’re going to try to use us for a springboard to success. We need to be ready to play and we have to compete. That will be the biggest task.”

Should the Jets find a way to capture another victory — or even a point for getting to extra time — you can be sure that Noel and company will be ecstatic, especially given the circumstances (handling injuries and dealing with the serious skate cut to rookie Zach Redmond in Carolina).

“Absolutely, things have gone pretty well on this road trip so far and with one game left, we’ve got to focus on tonight and getting out of here with two points,” said Jets defenceman Grant Clitsome.

During the trip, the Jets carried over the positives from playing hard in close losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins and their collective confidence has been bolstered.

“Guys are playing with a little bit more composure and are more aware defensively, we’re managing the puck a little better and not throwing it away and giving the other team chances,” said Clitsome. “That’s been a key.”

The Jets will have Dustin Byfuglien in the lineup, but Chris Thorburn replaces Antti Miettinen (lower-body). Kyle Wellwood will be a healthy scratch for the fourth time this season.

The goaltending match-up features Ondrej Pavelec — who will tie Kari Lehtonen for the franchise record for games played (204) — and Henrik Lundqvist.

Meanwhile, the Rangers will be without forward Rick Nash (who skated this morning), Portage la Prairie product Arron Asham (back spasms) and defenceman Ryan McDonagh (suspected concussion).

Here’s how we expect both clubs to start on Tuesday:

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

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

Ondrej Pavelec (Eddie Pasquale)

RANGERS
Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik
Taylor Pyatt, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan
J.T. Miller, Brian Boyle, Darroll Powe
Chris Kreider, Jeff Halpern, Brandon Mashinter

Steve Eminger, Dan Girardi
Marc Staal, Anton Stralman
Stu Bickel, Matt Gilroy

Henrik Lundqvist (Martin Biron)

Categories: Hockey

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