Happy Sunday to you.
The Winnipeg Jets (4-4, eight points) held an optional morning skate prior to tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators (4-3-1, nine points) and head coach Claude Noel confirmed the majority of his lineup changes.
Devin Setoguchi, Paul Postma and Adam Pardy are in, Jim Slater (undisclosed), Jacob Trouba (neck) and Mark Stuart (hip) are out.
Stuart sustained his injury during the third period of Friday’s 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues when he crashed into his own net. He came out for the early stages of the morning skate, but returned to the dressing room early in the workout and was ruled out by Noel when he met the media.
With Slater out, Noel said Patrice Cormier will remain in the lineup and play centre on the fourth unit.
The combinations and even the final decision on the 12th forward remains up in the air — at least that’s what Noel said when he suggested an extra forward would be out for the pre-game warm-up before that decision is made.
Noel praised the effort of Anthony Peluso on Saturday, so I think he’s staying in. From where I sit, Eric Tangradi (who stayed out late for extra work again) seems like the odd-man out but you never know.
I’ll provide an update on Twitter as soon as things become clearer, either during the warm-up or once the scratches are official.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Noel does with both the line combos and D pairings.
Does he reunite Ladd-Little-Wheeler or stick with Kane on the LW on that unit?
Does Devin Setoguchi get reunited with Mark Scheifele and Kane or stay on the third line with Olli Jokinen?
Will Grant Clitsome start with Dustin Byfuglien again or is No. 33 going to play with Toby Enstrom after combining for the game-tying goal the other night?
Plenty of interesting questions, with answers that don’t seem clear as of this afternoon.
Former Predators RW Matt Halischuk was asked about facing his former team and boldly proclaimed “it’s just another game.”
During training camp, Halischuk told me he had no hard feelings toward the organization after they failed to give him a qualifying offer and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent and eventually sign with the Jets, so his answer didn’t surprise me.
But you’d have to think that deep down, Halischuk probably wants to show the Preds what they’re missing.
Halischuk picked up his first point of the season on Friday, an assist on Olli Jokinen’s knuckle-puck.
I’m interested to see if Halischuk is on the wing with Jokinen and Michael Frolik or where he slots in this evening as well.
As for the Predators, they played in Montreal and earned a 2-1 win over the Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre before traveling to Winnipeg.
The Preds didn’t skate and head coach Barry Trotz (a Dauphin product) was available to the media at 5 p.m., but he wouldn’t reveal who his starting goalie is, so we’ll have to wait to see who comes through the tunnel first for the warm-up. (UPDATE: Carter Hutton led the Preds onto the ice and will make his 1st start of the season and 2nd of his young career).
There’s been some speculation that youngster Carter Hutton might get his first start of the season, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
Pekka Rinne gets the night off and that’s a break for the Jets, no doubt about it as he’s one of the best goalies in the NHL.
It wasn’t an overly taxing night in Montreal for Rinne (23 shots, 22 saves) so I won’t be surprised if he’s in goal for a ninth consecutive start since this is a divisional game. (I was wrong on this one)
Mike Fisher missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body issue and is out for tonight’s game as well, though Trotz told me Fisher could play against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
Personally looking forward to seeing rookie D Seth Jones play live for the first time since the U-17 World Hockey Challenge that Winnipeg hosted a couple years back.
Jones scored his 2nd NHL goal on Saturday and it was the game-winner. He’s got two goals, four points in eight games and is averaging 24 minutes and 14 seconds per game and is being used on the Preds’ top pair with Shea Weber.
“He’s shown in his first eight games that he can play in the league, he can play a lot of minutes and be a contributing player,” said Trotz. ”
This is the first regular season visit by the Predators and just the second meeting since the Jets returned to the NHL.
Nashville is the top team in the face-off circle, with Paul Gaustad leading the NHL (63.5%) and David Legwand (57.4%) among the leaders.
With Slater out, the Jets need someone to try and step up in this category.
As stated earlier, this is a bit of a guessing game when it comes to the way both teams are going to start, but this is my best guess and I’ll update after the warm-up.
Jets Gameday lines
Evander Kane-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd-Mark Scheifele-Michael Frolik
Matt Halischuk-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
James Wright-Patrice Cormier-Anthony Peluso
Grant Clitsome-Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Adam Pardy-Paul Postma
Ondrej Pavelec (Al Montoya)
Colin Wilson-Matt Cullen-Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque-David Legwand-Craig Smith
Eric Nystrom-Paul Gaustad-Filip Forsberg
Viktor Stalberg-Nick Spaling-Matt Hendricks
Seth Jones-Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm-Kevin Klein
Victor Bartley-Ryan Ellis
Carter Hutton (Pekka Rinne)