Can Jets keep Wild winless?

- October 10th, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two teams about to meet and both feeling a sense of urgency in their own way.

The Winnipeg Jets are 2-1 but could have easily found themselves in the same position as the Minnesota Wild (0-1-2).

There have been chunks when both teams have been very good and others, not so much.

I had a feeling the Jets were going to insert RW Matt Halischuk into the lineup tonight and that’s exactly what head coach Claude Noel is doing, adding a bit of speed, along with someone who was very good on the PK during the pre-season.

The Wild have scored five power-play goals in three games and are currently operating at 38.5%, which is good for 4th in the NHL right now.

Coming out is RW Anthony Peluso, who was used sparingly in his season debut against the Ducks on Sunday.

It isn’t a knock against Peluso, but merely a chance to get Halischuk into action. He’s good on the forecheck and is familiar with the Wild from his time with the Nashville Predators organization.

Halischuk will skate on the fourth line with Jim Slater and James Wright, but don’t be surprised to see him take the odd shift with Olli Jokinen and Michael Frolik.

Although he was quick to downplay the significance, I’ll be watching former Wild winger Devin Setoguchi as he faces his old team for the first time since the July trade that saw him end up with the Jets.

Setoguchi has two goals, three points in three games but is coming off a game against the Anaheim Ducks where he and linemates Evander Kane and Mark Scheifele were all held without a shot on goal.

On defence, the Jets look like they’re going to start with the same pairings as last game — Dustin Byfuglien-Toby Enstrom, Zach Bogosian-Grant Clitsome and Jacob Trouba-Mark Stuart.

Clitsome struggled a bit with his puck-handling and decision-making in his season debut, but is looking forward to turning the page and getting another shot tonight against the Wild.

On Sunday, Clitsome got caught in the vicious cycle. After making one mistake, players can get caught in the black hole between trusting their instincts and guarding against trying not to make another error, rather than letting things come naturally.

“It’s an adjustment. You get caught up in the game, you get caught up in the emotion and it’s hard to take a step back. But it’s part of being a professional and it’s part of playing the game,” Clitsome told me after the optional morning skate which saw nine skaters and two goalies take part. “Once you start making mistakes, you start second guessing yourself and you’re thinking, maybe my timing is not where it should be and then you’re second guessing your instincts, when you should be going and when you shouldn’t be going. Anyways, I think it’s a good learning experience and it’s behind me now. I’ll build on that tonight.”

Clitsome saw the Wild a fair bit when he was in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization and knows what to expect from them.

“They’re a pretty quick team, especially here in this building, they come out with a lot of energy right off the bat and try to take the game to us early,” said Clitsome. “We need to be ready right off the bat and weather that storm a little bit and take our game to them.”

The Wild are struggling mightily to score goals at even strength — two of their seven total goals have come there — head coach Mike Yeo is juggling his lines and making some lineup changes, inserting checking winger Stephane Veilleux on the fourth line while moving Jason Pominville to the second line with Dany Heatley and Mikael Granlund and giving a promotion to youngster Nino Neiderreiter on the top line with Zach Parise and captain Mikko Koivu.

Yeo will also insert rookie D Matt Dumba in for his second game of the season, sitting down Marco Scandella as a healthy scratch.

I spoke with Dumba briefly and look forward to seeing his adjustment to the pro game. I remember watching Dumba with Team Pacific during the Under-17 championship in Winnipeg a couple years back and he was fun to watch. He plays with offensive flair, can be a physical force — though he hasn’t gone looking for the big hit just yet as he tries to find his way.

“It’s been really good, I’ve been learning a lot and it shows in my game,” said Dumba, the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. “Now that the first one is out of the way, I think I can just focus on playing hockey and doing what I do best and just going out there, being strong and competing.”

Dumba, 19, didn’t mince words when I asked him what was the best piece of advice he’s received so far when it comes to making the transition to the NHL game.

“Basically, just play the game, be yourself and (show) you deserve to be here,” said Dumba. “Play with that confidence and really just go out and do whatever it takes to be here and be on this squad.”

G Niklas Backstrom is out, Josh Harding gets the call and Darcy Kuemper will serve as the backup. G Ondrej Pavelec is in for the Jets and as I wrote yesterday, it will be interesting to see if Al Montoya starts Friday vs the Dallas Stars or Sunday vs the New Jersey Devils (that’s my vote).

Here’s how we expect both teams to start on Thursday night, where a host of Jets fans are expected to be among the 18,000-plus at Xcel Energy Center. Some are even sticking around to watch the Minnesota Vikings host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Let the rivalry begin to grow.

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi-Olli Jokinen-Michael Frolik
James Wright-Jim Slater-Matt Halischuk

Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien
Grant Clitsome-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec (Al Monotya)

Wild

Zach Pariese-Mikko Koivu-Ninne Neiderreiter
Dany Heatley-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke-Kyle brodziak-Justin Fontaine
Stephane Veilleux-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Jonas Brodin-Ryan Suter
Keith Ballard-Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner-Matt Dumba

Josh Harding (Darcy Kuemper)

Categories: Hockey

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