Jets stick with lineup against Rangers

- March 14th, 2014

Paul Maurice will call on the same 18 skaters and goalie Ondrej Pavelec as the Winnipeg Jets try to snap their five-game losing streak tonight against the New York Rangers in the middle match of a three-game homestand.

With 15 games left in the regular season and facing a five-point deficit in the Western Conference standings, the Jets realize their margin for error is getting slimmer and slimmer.

During the course of the next week, the Jets will face the Rangers, the Dallas Stars, the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche.

“With where we are right now, we’re going to be fairly close to an underdog in all of our games, if you’re putting the lineups out there,” said Maurice on Thursday. “There’s none of the sense is that if we just play our game, we should win by five and then all is right with the hockey world. We’re going out (Friday) night against a pretty good, pretty fast, deep hockey team. We’re going to play our butts off. The last two games have been like that. We’re going to give everything we possibly can. It’s not a matter of wanting it more or being more ready and you’re guaranteed to win the game.”

The Jets (30-28-9) are encouraged by how they played the past two games, so let’s see if they can carry that into Friday’s game against a Rangers (35-28-4) club that has lost two straight and is now tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets club for second spot in the Metropolitan Division.

“Obviously, when we were on that winning streak, things were going good but we’re still a confident group in here,”  Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian said after the morning skate. “The good thing about the schedule right now is that we play every other day so we can get back on the right side of things tonight. We can take that as a good challenge for us. When you play this many games in a short period of time, you can try and build momentum off of it and break a slide pretty quick.”

Jets captain Andrew Ladd is hitting another milestone on Friday, as he’s getting set to play his 600th NHL game, prompting this response from Maurice.

“That used to mean he’s getting his own room, now that doesn’t matter anymore,” said Maurice, referring to the terms of the old collective bargaining agreement. “(Ladd) would be a guy that because of my time in Carolina, I was able to get some information on prior to coming here. People that I know and really trust just couldn’t say enough about him.

“He’s a quiet leader and his play is clearly his defining role.”

Maurice referred to a fierce exchange of cross-checks between Ladd and Vancouver Canucks D-man Kevin Bieksa as an example that his captain is willing to do whatever it takes.

“You need to have that kind of bite, in that kind of player, as your captain. There’s no fear in his game,” said Maurice. “He’s clearly not running around chasing heavyweights but he’s honest and hard. In some ways, in terms of approach, he’s a forward version of Mark Stuart, in what he’s willing to do for the hockey team. He puts some pucks in the net for you too.”

The Jets need to be much more disciplined against the Rangers after killing off 11 minors during the past two games, since the Broadway Blueshirts have the 11th-ranked power play in the NHL and are 2nd in the NHL on the road, operating at 25%.

Having had the opportunity to cover the Rangers’ opening-round series with the Washington Capitals last spring, I gained a great appreciation for just how good the pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi is and you can be sure they’ll play a big role in trying to contain the Jets’ offence in this one.

It’s going to be odd to see the Rangers without exiled captain Ryan Callahan, but there are still plenty of weapons for the Jets to contend with, including newcomer Marty St. Louis — who has no goals and one assist in five games since the swap of captains.

“What doesn’t he (bring). He’s the head of the snake,” said Maurice. “In Tampa Bay, if they weren’t going, somehow, someway, he changed the game and it wasn’t all just skill. It was one of those shifts that, with his speed or his energy or his cutbacks — the things he can do — he could get the building going without actually putting the puck in the net.

“He’s the kind of player that, because of his stature, all fans cheer for. He’s the underdog who has turned into a superstar. He’s just such a dynamic player. What makes him great though isn’t all of those things, it’s the consistency. At that size, to be that good in this league for this long, everybody has got a game-plan for him. It’s just never worked against him. He’s found a way to beat all plans to produce big numbers. He’s absolutely a special player.”

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault hinted subtly that St. Louis would have a new centre tonight, as he’s moving Brad Richards off the line but didn’t say whether it would be Derek Stepan or Derick Brassard who replaces him.

“It hasn’t had the impact I was hoping it was going to have,” said Vigneault, who reunited the forwards who starred for the Tampa Bay Lightning during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2004. “We’ve tried it out now for 5 games and been patient. It’s probably time to try something else.”

Although hard to believe, the Vancouver Canucks didn’t play at MTS Centre until January, so this is Vigneault’s first game at MTS Centre since he was the head coach of the Manitoba Moose.

Vigneault didn’t get too in-depth on this trip down memory lane, but fondly remembers his lone season here.

“I loved my time in Winnipeg and I’ll always remember it. It’s what permitted me to get back to the big league,” said Vigneault, who guided the 2005-06 Moose to a 44-24-12 record before becoming the Canucks’ head coach in 2006-07. “I had a great time with some great people who are still working here now.”

Maurice also gave a quick update on Jets rookie C Mark Scheifele, who remains on the shelf with a sprained MCL.

“He’s up and he’s moving around,” said Maurice, noting there is no imminent return coming. “We’re not sneaking him in early.”

Since they played Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild, losing 2-1, a small number of Rangers hit the ice on Friday morning.

After Cam Talbot started against the Wild, Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the call against the Jets, who defeated the Rangers 5-2 at Madison Square Garden back on Dec. 2.

Won’t know the lineup for sure until later, but here’s how I expect both teams to start:

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Michael Frolik
Evander Kane-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
Dustin Byfuglien-Jim Slater-Blake Wheeler
Chris Thorburn-Eric O’Dell-Anthony Peluso

Toby Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy-Keaton Ellerby

Ondrej Pavelec (Al Montoya)

Rangers

Mats Zuccarrello-Derick Brassard-Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Benoit Pouliot
Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Dan Carcillo

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
John Moore-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist (Cam Talbot)

Categories: Hockey

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