Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel has made a few minor tweaks to two of his lines, in hopes of snapping a three-game losing skid against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.
Jumping up to the second line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little is Alex Burmsitrov, while Nik Antropov will be used with Kyle Wellwood and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Mark Scheifele and Anthony Peluso will be the healthy scratches.
This is a good opportunity for Burmistrov to show some of his offensive flare and bring a little more speed to the unit, along with playing a reliable defensive game.
“Alex is going to move up and play more minutes,” said Noel. “He’s a responsible player. Can we provide more on both sides of the puck? I don’t expect him to just be a defender and I don’t expect him to go chasing the game offensively. He’s with some good players and they can play a responsible, two-way game. That’s all that is expected of them. He’s got to find his way and you have to be a little bit patient and allow him to find that way.
“This is his third season, it’s time to give him an opportunity. He adds speed to the line and that’s one of the things I was looking at. We’ll see how he does. I don’t need him to try to carry everything. Just make a contribution in the game.”
Ponikarovsky, Antropov and Wellwood played together with the Toronto Maple Leafs a few years ago and had some success.
“I’m pretty sure we should be fine,” said Ponikarovsky. “We know what to expect from each other in different areas of the ice, we know where everybody needs to be in terms of the system. We just have to work at it. Both of those guys have lots of skill and can put the puck in the net. Nik and I have size and we can use that in the corners. We just have to bring it.”
Jets winger Blake Wheeler was asked about the keys to bouncing back:
“It was a tough week last week, but it’s a new week this week,” said Wheeler. “It’s pretty obvious, we need to play disciplined and we need to play these guys hard. If we come out with the mindset that we have to outwork them, that’s going to go a long way. We just have to do the little things correct and that that’s going to push us over the edge.”
The Jets will start Ondrej Pavelec and while Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen wouldn’t reveal his starter (saying it was a game-time) decision, it appears as though Scott Clemmensen is going to get the call.
Pavelec spoke to reporters on Tuesday and said he needed to play better.
Noel seemed to agree with the assessment.
“When you look at the way that he’s played, the third period of the Florida game and the beginning of the Tampa Bay game, it’s been a little bit tough for him,” he said, referring to the five-goal third against the Panthers and the five goals on 14 shots against the Lightning. “We’re just hoping that we’re able to get him back after a couple days of practice, getting him regrouped a little bit and get him back to his game now. He’s shown great signs early and we’re just hoping he finds his way back.”
You can be sure that Panthers forward Kris Versteeg is looking forward to facing the Jets. After all, he’s produced eight goals and 12 points in the past six games against them.
“You don’t know why you have success against certain teams, you try to go out and play the same style against every team. Some times it works and some times it doesn’t,” said Versteeg. “To get the two points is the main thing on my mind right now.”
The Jets should also keep an eye on winger Peter Mueller, who has scored goals in four consecutive games and has five points in eight games with the Panthers this season.
“It’s one of those things you don’t even talk about,” said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. “The puck is finding him, he’s going to the right places, he’s creating chances and when you got the hot stick, you try to ride it a little bit.”
After missing ample time with concussion issues, Mueller is back to full health and playing up to his potential.
“It’s just playing and getting a chance to play, playing a regular shift is nice,” said Mueller. “For me, it’s not about the numbers. At this point, I just want to play 48 games straight.
“(Dealing with injuries) was tough, but you’ve always got to keep a positive mindset. I was out for a year-and-a-half, but the biggest thing for me was to never have any self doubt. I worked (hard) in the summer and surrounded myself with good people. For me to come into camp healthy, it’s been a great feeling so far, to get these eight games out of the way. And hopefully, the next 40.”
I had wondered if the Jets might have had Mueller on their free-agent wish list last summer, but the 8th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft said “they didn’t come calling.”
In some other housekeeping news, Noel ruled out defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (lower-body), said he was possibly an option for Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Speaking of defenceman, Zach Bogosian continues to make progress and Noel said “without putting a time frame on that, he’s close to joining the team and start skating with us, which will be good for us and him.”
Here’s how we expect both teams to start on Tuesday night:
Evander Kane-Olli Jokinen-Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd-Alex Burmistrov-Bryan Little
Alexei Ponikarovsky-Nik Antropov-Kyle Wellwood
James Wright-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn
Toby Enstrom-Ron Hainsey
Mark Stuart-Zach Redmond
Grant Clitsome-Paul Postma
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Montoya)
Tomas Fleischmann-Stephen Weiss-Kris Versteeg
Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore, Peter Mueller
Alex Kovalev-Marcel Goc-Tomas Kopecky
Shawn Matthias, Jerred Smithson, George Parros
Brian Campbell-Filip Kuba
Dmitry Kulikov-Mike Weaver
Keaton Ellerby-Erik Gudbranson/Tyson Strachan
Scott Clemmesen (Jose Theodore)