Jets look to regroup against Bruins

- March 19th, 2013

The Winnipeg Jets realize they can’t afford another slow start as they host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday to open up a vital four-game homestand at MTS Centre.

On the heels of a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Jets are looking to rebound and play the way they had been in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s defeat.

As is always the case when the Bruins roll into town, the Jets know they’ll have to be on top of their game, since the 2011 Stanley Cup champs are a perennial powerhouse that prides itself on hard-working, gritty performances.

“They’re always consistent, with their system, they don’t get away from it — which is hard to do,” said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart, who along with Blake Wheeler, spent time with the Bruins before a trade to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011. “If you get down by a few or you lose a few in a row, most teams will try to change things up, push a little harder or take a few risks. But they stay even-keeled.

“All the top teams regroup fast and are able to find that consistency. That’s something we’re working towards. It’s something we’ve gotten better at and we want to continue getting better at. We’ve made some great steps, I like how we’ve played the last few weeks. But this is another case tonight of regrouping after a loss.”

The Bruins have won the first two meetings this season, a 2-1 shootout in Boston on Jan. 21 in the second game of the season and a 3-2 win at MTS Centre on Feb. 17.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien made it clear that creating that winning culture doesn’t happen overnight.

“It took some time and we’ve been going through it for quite a few years now,” said Julien, now in his sixth season as Bruins’ bench boss. “We keep pushing that culture on our players that come in. The biggest thing is the belief. The guys in that dressing room believe in what we’re doing. So it’s always an easier sell.

“We pride ourselves on our game and that’s what you have to do. To be a hard team to play against is something we’re proud of. We’ve often talked before about the Detroit Red Wings and how they were such a good team at puck possession and how they control the play. Now you’re hearing some teams using us as a model. It keeps us on our toes because every team we play is ready to play us. If we’re not ready, we can’t win those hockey games. It’s kept us in check.”

Going into the contest, the Jets are in a four-way tie at 32 points with the Carolina Hurricanes (3rd), Toronto Maple Leafs (6th) and New Jersey Devils (8th) but are in seventh place based on the number of regulation and overtime wins.

“Every game is big at this point of the year,” said Jets centre Olli Jokinen. “We’ve got 19 games left. Obviously, it’s a great challenge. They’re one of the better teams and if you can play well against them, you should be able to play well against any team. We have a big week coming up, a good homestand and we want to start the right way.”

That homestand includes three games against Southeast Division opponents — back-to-back tilts with the Washington Capitals and then one with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Looking slighter further than that, the Jets have seven games in the next 12 days, with seven against teams from the Southeast.

“Without getting too far ahead, you could really discourage some teams in your division,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “For us, there’s two targets, the Top-8 and trying to win the division outright. We’re fortunate that we’re potentially (able) to get in two different ways. That’s within reach.

“You just have to continue getting points, no matter how you slice it.”

On the lineup front, Alex Burmistrov will indeed return to the Jets’ lineup after four consecutive healthy scratches, replacing Patrice Cormier on the fourth line with Eric Tangradi and Chris Thorburn.

Burmistrov didn’t care to share much about his discussions with Noel.

When asked specifically if he felt he needed to change his style of game, Burmistrov had this to offer:

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see tonight. I don’t think I will change my game right now,” said Burmistrov, who has three goals and seven points in 25 games this season. “I will play like I always play and try to work hard.”

Noel gave a glimpse of what he wanted to see from Burmistrov.

“Much the same as what he’s been doing. If I can get him to go in straight lines and less cute stuff, that would be good. Sometimes the player is what he is and can’t change those things,” said Noel. “He’s a good player for us, he’s due to go.”

As he’s been saying for much of the past week, Noel said he needs to get his fourth line a bit more ice time and having the more experienced option of Burmistrov on that line could make that more of a possibility.

As for the Bruins, David Krejci (leg) is getting better but won’t play, so call-up Ryan Spooner will be given the first opportunity to slot in and play on a line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

I asked Julien what made Spooner, who is playing his second NHL game, a good fit there?

“I don’t know, I guess I’ll tell you after the game,” said Julien. “He’s a great playmaker. It’s a great opportunity to take and we’ll see where he goes with that. If it doesn’t work out, we can always make some changes. We’ve seen him play enough to know he can probably be a good fit there.

“It’s not like he’s going into unchartered waters here. He knows exactly what we expect of him, it’s his second call-up.”

Julien is expecting a stiff test from the Jets.

It’s pretty exciting when you’re on the outside and then you get yourself on the inside. You start feeling it and it certainly gives your team a lot of energy. We expect them to be that kind of team tonight,” said Julien. “We’ve never had an easy game in this building before, so we shouldn’t expect one today.”

Ondrej Pavelec starts in goal for the Jets, while Tuukka Rask goes for the Bruins.

Arturs Kulda was on the ice with the Jets for the first time, but as expected, he’ll need some time to get acclimated with the group before he’s an option to get into action.

Kulda hasn’t played since a Game 7 loss in the KHL playoffs on Mar. 5, though he’s been on the ice the past few days.

Noel said he trusts Kulda’s game from his nine games last season, is excited to add depth to the blue line but wasn’t going to rush Kulda into the lineup because his D-corps has been playing well.

Jets D-man Toby Enstrom has been cleared for contact but still isn’t sure when he’ll be back in action. Noel doesn’t have a time-frame either. It’s not out of the question Enstrom could return before the week is out, but they’re not going to rush him back either, so the guessing game will continue.

“We’ll see how in the next couple days coming up here, with what we decide to do,” said Enstrom, who has not had any setbacks since he started skating. “Hopefully, I’ll be back soon.”

The only thing really working against Enstrom is the lack of available practice time, with the Jets in a stretch of four games in six days.

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

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

Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Grant Clitsome, Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart, Derek Meech

Ondrej Pavelec (Eddie Pasquale)

BRUINS

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin
Milan Lucic, , Ryan Spooner, Nathan Horton
Jay Pandolfo, Rich Peverley, Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton
Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask (Anton Khudobin)

 

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