Jets look to snap four-game skid vs Devils

- November 25th, 2013

NEWARK, N.J. — In case you missed it — and I doubt that you did — Jacob Trouba makes his highly-anticipated return to the Winnipeg Jets lineup tonight against the New Jersey Devils.

How will he play and how much time will he need to get back to the level he was at before suffering that scary neck injury on Oct. 18?

Nobody knows for sure, but given Trouba’s competitive nature, it probably won’t take long.

Trouba was the focus of my pre-game web story but I also asked him what was the best piece of advice he received during his five-week absence?

“Probably don’t take this sport for granted, it could have been over pretty quickly,” said Trouba. “Be thankful for what you have.”

Trouba will play alongside Grant Clitsome and that duo will also be used as the Jets’ second PP unit pairing as well.

Jets head coach Claude Noel said he would be monitoring Trouba’s minutes but that could also be dictated by how things are going in the game.

Trouba was making 20-plus minutes seem routine before the injury and I won’t be the least bit surprised if he approaches or surpasses that number again tonight.

Trouba will replace Adam Pardy, who has been playing pretty well of late. Noel mentioned after the morning skate that with the defence corps getting closer to full health, it will promote competition among the group.

Since the Jets have lost four consecutive games (0-2-2) to fall to 10-11-4 and the Devils (winners of five of seven to get to 9-9-5) coming off a three-game California road trip, I asked Noel about the importance of trying to jump on the opposition early.

“It’s going to be important to start off the road trip on the right foot,” said Noel. “They’ve been playing well. They had a good road trip. They’re a team that doesn’t give you very much. We’re used to that, playing in the West. It’s going to take all of us to get this thing done. It will be a lot like the Minnesota game, we anticipate.”

What does that mean exactly?

“It’s going to be tight, defensive. They’re going to try to clog up the neutral zone a lot, pressure us hard on the D zone with two guys and try to capitalize on our turnovers,” said Clitsome. “We’ve got to be smart with the puck and know where everybody is on the ice.”

There’s been plenty of talk and stories dedicated to how this trip could make or break the Jets season — that’s a subject that I weighed in on in Monday’s Winnipeg Sun — but Noel’s looking at the game in front of him instead.

Is Noel looking at this six-game trip and thinking his club needs to win five of those to be a success?

“In this particular stretch of six games, we’re looking to focus at the one game. We’re not looking at the beginning and saying, ‘okay fellas, out of the six, we want this,’” said Noel. “You just don’t know what you’re going to get. What happens if you don’t have success? Do you throw your hands up in the air?

“We’re going to focus on this game. We know what the trip entails, we know we want to win, we know we want to have success and we know where we sit in the standings. Somewhere in here, we’ve got to get consistently on the right side of the close games, that’s what has to be the goal. If we can do that, the results will hopefully show that.”

Devils centre and Winnipegger Travis Zajac talked about what’s changed since the two teams met back on Oct. 13.

“We starting trusting each other, trust our structure and you’ve seen us get some wins because of that,” said Zajac. “Guys are on the same page. We’re working a little harder and we’re in a better spot, where we’ve got some wins and some confidence and we’ve turned some things around.”

Jaromir Jagr leads the Devils in scoring with nine goals and 18 points in 23 games and it should be good to see the veteran play one more time live.

Jagr was one of my favourite players growing up and he was in fine form in talking with reporters this morning.

The subject of overtime goals came up and Jagr was asked if it feels the same today as it did when he scored his first OT winner?

“Probably, but I don’t remember,” said Jagr. “That was a different century.”

Jagr did remember that his first OT winner in the playoffs was against the Devils when he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I asked Zajac what it’s been like to be playing with Jagr after watching him as a youngster?

“It’s pretty surreal,” said Zajac.  “You watch how hard he still works at 41-years-old, on and off the ice. It’s good for our team to take some of those tips he’s been giving us and helping us out with. There’s a reason why he’s played this long and been as successful as he has been.”

Nobody knows if this will be Jagr’s last season or not, but he’s certainly trying to get the most out of himself if it is.

“What it shows you is his passion and enthusiasm for the game and his will to compete,” said Noel. “He looks after himself and you see the success he has and how influential he is on others, it speaks volumes for his will to want to win and to compete and how much he enjoys playing the game and playing at that high level.

“It’s still important for him to win games. He knows he has influence, because of his play and because of his experience, but he shares that experience in trying to help the team win. That’s huge.”

Here’s how I expect both teams to start on Monday:

Jets Gameday lines

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

Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien
Grant Clitsome-Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart-Keaton Ellerby

Ondrej Pavelec (Al Montoya)

Devils

Dainius Zubrus-Travis Zajac-Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique-Andrei Loktionov-Michael Ryder
Damien Brunner-Patrik Elias-Steve Bernier
Ryan Carter-Jacob Josefson–Cam Janssen

Andy Greene-Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas-Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill-Peter Harrold

Martin Brodeur (Cory Schneider)

Categories: Hockey

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