BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Winnipeg Jets will attempt to go for a two-game sweep on this two-games-in-two-days roadie that concludes against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.
The Jets built a pair of two-goal leads against the Columbus Blue Jackets and then staved off a late push to earn a 3-2 win on Monday night to improve to 15-15-5.
Nine of those 15 wins have come against Eastern Conference opponents and tonight the Jets will attempt to avoid a letdown game against a Sabres squad that looks to have hit rock bottom, dead last in the NHL with a record of 7-23-3.
Jets head coach Claude Noel ultimately decided to go back with Ondrej Pavelec in goal, despite the fact Al Montoya has won his last three starts and is 5-2-1 with a 2.24 goals against average and .920 save percentage.
As I wrote in the morning web story Noel made it clear that Pavelec remains the starter and he had no reservations going back to him.
I’m a tad surprised Montoya didn’t get another shot, but for the past three years Noel has been given plenty of grief for playing Pavelec in consecutive games on back-to-back nights, so lets see how the game goes before passing judgement.
UPDATE: It sounds like James Wright came down with a flu bug and he will be scratched.
Eric O’Dell, who leads the St. John’s IceCaps in scoring with 12 goals and 29 points in 28 American Hockey League games this season, was recalled on Tuesday morning and will draw into the lineup and centre the fourth unit with Eric Tangradi on RW and John Albert moving to LW.
O’Dell had a strong training camp and is off to another strong start with the IceCaps.
Many were surprised when John Albert got the call to the NHL ahead of O’Dell, but now it appears O’Dell has a chance to prove his worth.
Noel wasn’t sure if O’Dell could play on the wing, saying he’d have to do some research before deciding where to put him and saying he wants to put him in a position to succeed.
Because the Jets had an optional skate this morning, it’s tough to say how the Jets third and fourth lines will shake out but expect Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler to remain in tact and the same is likely true for Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik.
Kane was among the group of players to take part in the optional and was in no mood to talk when I asked him how his left foot was feeling the morning after blocking a shot and crashing into the end boards.
Kane had a goal and an assist in his return after missing six games with a lower-body injury.
Playing on consecutive nights when coming back from injury can sometimes be a challenge, but Kane sounded like he was up for it.
The Jets are keeping the same D pairings, meaning Keaton Ellerby will be a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game.
The only bit of news coming out of Tuesday was that Jets rookie D-man Jacob Trouba talked about getting into his first NHL fight, which took place after Blue Jackets forward and Matt Calvert nailed Toby Enstrom in the corner.
“I don’t think it’s my biggest strength, but it was fine. It was good to get it out of the way,” said Trouba, noting he had three fights during his time with the U.S. development program while playing in the United States Hockey League. “No one really said anything, it just kind of happened. Our team was a little tight coming off that homestand, I thought the team would get a good laugh looking at me look like an idiot out there, maybe kind of loosen everyone up a little bit. Whatever I can do to help.”
Trouba held in there pretty well, landing a few and taking a few. He felt it was important to stand up for Enstrom, his new D partner on Monday.
“It wasn’t dirty, but you never want to see someone get hit like that, especially one of our best players,” said Trouba, who also took a stick in the face from Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson that drew a double minor but didn’t require stitches. “It wasn’t anything planned out or anything, it just kind of happened.”
Messages poured in after the game.
“A couple friends, my brothers obviously, nothing too crazy but I got some good ones,” said Trouba, who has one goal and six points in 18 games this season.
The Sabres are struggling and recalled three players on Tuesday as they continue to look for the right mix under interim head coach Ted Nolan.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal and as Noel pointed out this morning, he’s the type of goalie that can win a game by himself.
Here’s how we expect both teams to start:
Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik
Chris Thorburn-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
John Albert-Eric O’Dell-Eric Tangradi
Toby Enstrom-Jacob Trouba
Grant Clitsome-Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart-Adam Pardy
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Monotya)
Matt Moulson-Tyler Ennis-Zemgus Girgensons
Steve Ott-Ville Leino-Drew Stafford
Marcus Foligno-Cody Hodgson-Matt D’Agostini
Kevin Porter-Brian Flynn-Matt Ellis
Christian Ehrhoff-Alexander Sulzer
Henrik Tallinder-Tyler Myers
Mike Weber-Jamie McBain
Ryan Miller (Jhonas Enroth)