Jets look for two in a row

- December 29th, 2013

DENVER — It’s been nearly a month since the Winnipeg Jets were able to put consecutive victories together and they’ll give it another shot on Sunday night at Pepsi Center against a Colorado Avalanche squad that is going through a bit of a rough patch of their own.

Don’t be deceived into thinking this is going to be an easy one for the Jets. Despite the recent hardship for the Avalanche, they’ve still managed to pick up at least a point in six of the past eight games, so they remain very competitive and have some dangerous weapons, especially among their forward group.

The Jets seemingly never-ending quest for consistency has them entering tonight’s contest 10 points behind the Avalanche, who sit third in the Central Division and hold three games in hand.

I was never great at math, but giving up a third consecutive victory to the Avalanche wouldn’t seem like a good way to try and close the gap.

Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said today he expects it to take at least 100 points to make the playoffs in the Central and the Jets currently have 39. After tonight, the Jets have 41 games left on the docket, so they’ll need to go on one heck of a roll to remain in the playoff discussion during the second half.

Since the Jets had some major mechanical issues with their charter plane on Saturday and left roughly nine hours after they were originally scheduled to, it will be interesting to see if the Jets can raise their energy level to compete against this high-octane Avalanche team that loves to skate and is dangerous if you get into the “track meet” type of game.

The Jets need only look back to last week’s 6-2 beat-down at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers to see what they need to avoid this evening.

As I wrote in Sunday’s Sun, Jets head coach Claude Noel did the right thing by rewarding Al Montoya with another start here. Ondrej Pavelec has some things he needs to work through and I wouldn’t be surprised if Montoya played again on New Year’s Eve against the Buffalo Sabres if he plays well tonight.

In early November, Montoya made two consecutive starts and Pavelec returned to the net to play his best hockey of the season. Perhaps that happens again. Who knows.

The Jets didn’t skate on Sunday morning, but barring a setback during the pre-game warm-up to either Zach Bogosian (illness) or Mark Stuart (groin), Noel expects both guys to play.

That likely means Adam Pardy and Julian Melchiori come out. I don’t expect Eric O’Dell to get back into the lineup up front, but won’t know for sure until the warm-up.

Roy said he was going to scratch D Nate Guenin (who played very well against the Jets in December), D Nick Holden and F Brad Malone.

Roy was asked this morning about where his team sits in the standings.

“We’re certainly happy where we are right now, I’m extremely proud of how our players have been performing since the start of the year,” said Roy. “We had a really good start and right now, we’re in the tough stretch. Look at the teams in our conference. This year, you’re going to need probably over 100 points to make the playoffs. We’ve played 18,19 games in our conference and I thought we did a good job to be around the .500 mark, which is pretty good. We’ve played a lot of tough road games. To be 11-6-2, I’m proud of my team.”

I also asked Roy what’s impressed him most about how rookie Nathan MacKinnon has handled the transition to the NHL?

“It’s how he accepts the teaching,” said Roy. “When you’re (picked) first overall, sometimes you think you know everything. He has improved his game defensively, he understands the concept of where to be in the defensive zone and he’s worked at it. The offensive skills are there. That’s why he was drafted first overall. He’s powerful, he skates hard, he’s got great hands and he sees the ice well.

“But the side we wanted to work with him is his understanding of tracking, back-checking, where to be. To be honest with you, it’s day and night since the start of the year.”

Just a quick programming note before I get to the lineups, I will be joining Dennis Beyak during the second intermission on TSN Jets. Tune in and let me know what you think of the segment.

Here’s how I expect both teams to start:

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik
Chris Thorburn-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi-James Wright-Anthony Peluso

Toby Enstrom-Jacob Trouba
Keaton Ellerby-Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart-Zach Bogosian

Al Monotya (Ondrej Pavelec)

Avalanche

Ryan O’Reilly-Matt Duchene-Nathan MacKinnon
Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-PA Parenteau
Jamie McGinn-John Mitchell-Max Talbot
Cody McLeod-Marc-Andre Cliche-Patrick Bordeleau

Jan Hejda-Erik Johnson
Andre Benoit-Cory Sarich
Tyson Barrie-Ryan Wilson

Semyon Varlamaov (J-S Giguere)

Categories: Hockey

Subscribe to the post

Leave a comment

 characters available