Two teams enter MTS Centre with a three-game winning streak, but only one will exit with another notch in the win column.
The Winnipeg Jets (9-9-2) insist they won’t be held back by complacency as the welcome the Philadelphia Flyers (7-10-1) to town.
“I don’t know why you’d be satisfied with a .500 record,” said Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler. “Guys are starting to buy into what’s making us successful. For the most part, we feel like we’ve played better than our record dictated. We feel like we’ve threw a few games away that we should have won, that we had in control but that’s all part of learning and growing as this group.
“You want to keep winning. We’ve done some good things and got some results that we like.”
The Flyers have been getting results they like of late as well, picking up a 2-1 win over their state rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday after blanking the Ottawa Senators two nights prior, showing they can win blowouts and tight-checking games alike.
“They’re going good and they have a lot of good players,” said Wheeler. “Everyone was waiting for them to come around. They’re not a group that has much quit in them. Playing against these guys as much as I have in my career, they’re a resilient bunch of guys. They’ve beaten some really good teams recently and it’s going to be a great match-up. They always are against these guys.”
You can be sure there will be plenty of fans watching intently as Jets rookie Mark Scheifele and Flyers third-year C Sean Couturier go head-to-head for the first time since they were chosen seventh and eighth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s still too early to judge who made the wiser selection, but given where they went in the draft, there are always going to be comparisons made.
This season, Scheifele has one goal (which came in his first game) and five points in 20 games, while Couturier has no goals and four assists in 18 games.
While both are essentially playing on the third line right now, their respective roles are decidedly different.
Couturier is routinely asked to go head-to-head with the opponent’s top line and is considered more of a shutdown player with some offensive potential, while the Jets hope that Scheifele can eventually grow into a dynamic offensive player.
Scheifele, 20, has shown signs of his creativity of late but needs to add more strength and muscle before he’s going to have a chance to flourish in a Top-6 forward role, while Flyers head coach Craig Berube said Couturier has taken strides with his strength this season as well.
Couturier, who turns 21 next month, has 17 goals and 46 points in 147 NHL games, so he’s got a head start over where Scheifele is at (two goals, six points in 31 NHL games) right now but that could change over time. Maybe it won’t, nobody knows for sure.
Either way, it will certainly be interesting to monitor over the next few seasons.
The Jets will stick with the same line combinations and lineup for the fourth consecutive game, which means D Zach Redmond and RW Anthony Peluso will continue to wait patiently.
I asked Jets head coach Claude Noel if he was concerned at all about not getting Redmond into a game since his recall or if there were benefits to him being around the team and practicing after playing only two AHL games so far this season.
“You’d like like to get guys into the game, it’s no different for Peluso as well,” said Noel. “Peluso has been okay, it’s not like he’s been a downslide or anything like that. But guys are going and it’s hard to change when guys are going this way. That’s a good thing, it’s healthy for your team.
“I’d like to get them in the lineup but right now, it’s just the way it goes and it’s part of the lesson they have to learn. When you do get in, make an impact so that you can stay. There’s not much I can do about that. We’re winning and we’ll go with that right now.”
The Jets had D Mark Stuart (hip) out for the morning skate, but there’s still no timeline for his return.
“It’s more about healing than anything, it’s just the risk of coming back too early and going back to Square 1,” said Stuart, noting that dealing with contact is the next item on his to-do list. “Pain-wise, it isn’t too bad.”
Stuart has been skating for the past week with D Jacob Trouba, who is still working his way back from a neck injury.
Many have been asking for a Trouba update as well and this was all Noel provided on Friday:
“He’s kind of in the Stuart mould, I don’t know when he’s going to start practicing with us,” said Noel. “I’m hoping it’s fairly soon, but it’s over a week I think. We’ve got to wait until he gets a little stronger. That’s what we’re waiting on.”
The Flyers will ice the same lineup as well, with D Andrej Meszaros, D Hal Gill and LW Michael Raffl sitting out.
Here’s how I expect both teams to start on Friday:
Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
Matt Halischuk-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi-James Wright-Chris Thorburn
Grant Clitsome-Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Adam Pardy-Keaton Ellerby
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Monotya)
Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn-Vinny Lecavalier-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Steve Downie
Zac Rinaldo-Adam Hall-Jay Rosehill
Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn
Nicklas Grossmann-Mark Streit
Erik Gustafsson-Luke Schenn
Steve Mason (Ray Emery)