Jets aim for motivation against Maple Leafs

- April 5th, 2014

The Winnipeg Jets will face a Toronto Maple Leafs team on Saturday that is hungry to try and keep its playoff hopes alive.

And based on what members of the media saw this morning, it looks like the Jets will be without left-winger Evander Kane, who stayed out extra long after the morning skate — something he doesn’t normally do when he’s in the lineup.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice gave a cryptic answer when asked about potential lineup changes, so it’s likely that Kane could be taking a seat and Devin Setoguchi could return to action after being a healthy scratch for five of the past six games.

UPDATE: Kane didn’t take the warm-up, so he looks like a healthy scratch.

Earlier this summer, Kane made a bit of a fuss by saying he was a healthy scratch for a November game against the Chicago Blackhawks, though he had been dealing with an injury in the days leading up to that contest.

This appears to be different, though the answer remains a mystery for now.

Kane was spotted at the Toronto Raptors game on Friday night at Air Canada Centre, but I’m not about to speculate about whether that has anything to do with the fact he could be out of the lineup.

Maurice will be asked about the decision after the game and we’ll do our best to see what we can find out.

Other than the potential for Kane to be replaced, it looked like the rest of the lineup for the Jets was going to be the same.

Although Bryan Little skipped the morning skate, the Jets’ top centre will be in the lineup.

It’s Ondrej Pavelec in goal tonight, so my hunch about this being a good chance for Michael Hutchinson to make his NHL debut was a tad premature.

As  I wrote in the pre-game web story, Maurice said that because of the playoff race, he owes it to his own team and to those in the hunt, to ice his best lineup, adding the caveat whenever possible.

That explanation makes sense to me and Maurice did say he expects to get Hutchinson some game action before the season is over.

Any of the games against the Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins or Calgary Flames makes sense and I personally wouldn’t be all that surprised if Hutchinson started more than one game.

The Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game one point behind the Columbus Blues Jackets and they have four games to go. The Blue Jackets have six and hold the tie-breaker so the Maple Leafs need to win at least three of their games and possibly four to even have a chance to advance to the post-season for the second straight spring.

Toronto has James Reimer in goal and has some lineup decisions of their own to work through. Joffrey Lupul (lower-body) was part of an optional skate but is a game-time decision, while Dave Bolland (ankle) is a game-time decision as well.

It will be interesting to see how the Jets play during these final four games. Several players went out of their way to point out that being eliminated from playoff contention should have no impact on preparation or effort level.

“Absolutely not. We’re professional hockey players and this is what we do,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “If it does, it shouldn’t. You should come here with the focus every day to try to get better. That’s the only way we’re going to get better as a group.

“If guys aren’t doing that, then hopefully we can find some guys that do that.”

Wheeler received a compliment from Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle in his morning address as well.

“Wheeler, watching the tape, can skate as well as any big man in the game right now,” said Carlyle. “He seems to be flying.”

Here’s how I expect both teams to start on Saturday, though the game-time decisions make things a little foggy:

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Michael Frolik
Dustin Byfuglien-Olli Jokinen-Blake Wheeler
Devin Setoguchi-Eric O’Dell-Matt Halischuk
Eric Tangradi-Jim Slater-Anthony Peluso

Toby Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy-Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec (Michael Hutchinson)

Maple Leafs

James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond-Dave Bolland-David Clarkson
Jerry D’Amigo-Nazem Kadri-Joffrey Lupul
Nikolai Kulemin-Jay McClement-Troy Bodie

Carl Gunnarsson-Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner-Cody Franson
Tim Gleason-Morgan Rielly

Paul Ranger

James Reimer (Drew MacIntyre)

 

Categories: Hockey

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