BUFFALO — It’s a nice, sunny day here in the Niagara region, and the Jets hope to feel the same way after tonight’s game against the Sabres.
It’s just the opposite with the Sabres. The situation around the team has been described as “toxic” on more than one occasion by the local media lately, so they should be in disarray. They got pummelled 8-4 by the Rangers on Friday night, and goaltender Ryan Miller was mocked by the fans. Everyone thinks he’s done here in Buffalo. The situation is not good — unless you’re the Jets and their fans. There are no excuses for Winnipeg tonight, who will face Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth.
A few other thoughts before tonight’s tilt …
• There were tons of players on the ice at the Jets morning skate, including Jim Slater, Nik Antropov, Anthony Peluso and Zach Redmond, who was officially recalled from his conditioning stint today. It doesn’t sound like Redmond will be getting into a game any time soon, though. Head coach Claude Noel wants the defenceman to get his strength up, and then they’ll go from there. Unless they make the playoffs, it sounds like the next time we see Redmond in a Jets uniform will be next year.
• Derek Meech and Antti Miettinen will draw into the lineup tonight in place of the injured Zach Bogosian and Olli Jokinen. Meech will be paired with Byfuglien, so he knows what he’ll have to do. “He likes to get up on the rush, so I’m going to have to focus on a little more of the defensive side of things and take it from there,” Meech said.
• James Wright will centre the second line between Evander Kane and Kyle Wellwood. He spent plenty of extra time this morning practising his draws after going 0-for-5 on Saturday. “I had a tough game last game,” Wright said. “Usually I’m better than that, but I got Welly I can count on to take face-offs, too. But it’s definitely a lot easier when you’re starting with the puck.” Wright played centre quite a bit in the AHL this year and was also in the middle when he played for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
• Andrew Ladd was named the NHL’s first star of the week today after recording two goals and six assists in three games. He also scored a pair of shootout goals. Ladd needs just four points in the final three games to tie his point total of 50 from last season, and that was in 82 games.
• It was easy to tell that Ladd is still more than a little peeved that Kyle Okposo got away with his hit on Zach Bogosian on Saturday. Okposo appeared to deliver a rising hit on Bogosian that made first contact with his head, and now No. 44 is out of the lineup with a suspected concussion. Okposo, meanwhile, got no penalty during the game or afterwards. “It’s tough. We lose one of our best players,” Ladd said. “As a player, I guess you feel a hit to the head is a hit to the head. That’s a tough one to take, especially this time of year when we really need him in the lineup. And that’s a team we’re battling for the playoffs with, and they still have their guy playing. So I don’t know. I don’t really have much more to say about that, but it’s tough to lose Zach.”
• If you want the Jets to make the playoffs, you’re cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins to beat the Ottawa Senators tonight.
• Here’s my best guess at tonight’s line combinations and defence pairings:
Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, James Wright, Kyle Wellwood
Eric Tangradi, Alex Burmistrov, Antti Miettinen
Mike Santorelli, Aaron Gagnon, Chris Thorburn
Derek Meech, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Grant Clitsome
Mark Stuart, Paul Postma
Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek
Steve Ott, Kevin Porter, Brian Flynn
Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht, John Scott
Drew Stafford, Mikhail Grigorenko, Marcus Foligno
Christian Ehrhoff, Andrej Sekera
Adam Pardy, Mark Pysyk
Mike Weber, Chad Ruhwedel