March 26 2013 11:43AM
It doesn't get any bigger than this. Well, it actually does - specifically this Saturday at the MTS Centre. But until then, this is as big as it gets. Tonight, your Winnipeg Jets travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
And the stakes are high, indeed ('The Stakes are High" would have been the title of this game preview if I could have photoshopped a steak smoking a bong). With a win, the Jets could pull 6 points ahead of Carolina in the race for first place. Sure, the Hurricanes have 3 games in hand, but winning 3 in a row when your neck is on the line is never the easiest of tasks. The Jets should expect a spirited effort from the '06 Cup Champs, as a win would put Carolina in a great position; 2 points back with 3 games in hand. With the rest of the Eastern Conference tightening up, it's becoming clear the only way to gurantee a spot in the Playoffs is to win the Southeast outright. Expect a battle.
Notes and Trash Talk...Tobias Enstrom had a goal and was +2 in 23:40 of icetime in his return to the Jets lineup Sunday against Tampa...With Stuart and Hainsey still ailing, I await the day the Jets will have all their Defenseman healthy - and what a back end it will look like with those three, plus Bogosian, Byfuglien, and - if icetime is any measure of value to the team - Clitsome. Good days ahead...Winnipeg won the last matchup 4-3, also in Carolina, and will host the next and final 2 games of the season series...I don't believe the Winnipeg Jets have EVER been in first place this late in the season. Yeah, I know it's a lockout season and blah blah blah, but I can't remember a Jets team in first place in their division on March 26th ever. Maybe the WHA days, but certainly no NHL Jets team has ever flown in such heady territory...Andrew Ladd returns to the building where he won his first Stanley Cup.
Notes and Trash Talk...The Hurricanes have had some serious injury problems - which is awesome for Jets fans. Cam Ward has been out of action for awhile now, and his replacement, Dan Ellis, has just gone down to injury as well. Great news! In net wil be Justin Peters, a 2nd round draft pick out of the OHL in the 2004 draft. But with a .901 sv% in just 33 games, he's not exactly the 2nd coming of Arturs Irbe...Also out of action are Chad LaRose (concussion) and Justin Faulk (MCL)...Jussi Jokinen was placed on waivers today(!) along with Tim Wallace... Sadly, Tuomo Ruutu has fully recovered from his Hip surgery, and has returned to play...The Hurricanes resigned Alex Semin to a monster 5yr/35M deal yesterday. So much for going after him at the trade deadline...All us true Winnipeg Jet fans owe the Hurricanes a debt of gratitude for beating the Oliers in the '06 Cup...The Staal brothers will be wearing Visors for the first time tonight. Expect your local announcer to make reference to it often. My over/under is 3.5 times
Game time is 7:00 Raleigh time, 6:00 Winnipeg time, and 11:00am Wednesday morning in Fiji. Winnipeg fans can catch it on TV on TSN Jets, and Jets fans around the world can listen to the game online live via TSN Radio here.
5 Surefire Predictions
- It'll be a playoff-like atmosphere. In fact, the over/under on such references from game commentators is 4.5.
- Win or lose, Claude Noel will be full of witty comments afterwards.
- Now that Alex Semin has secured his contract, his invisibility cloak will make his season debut.
- A handful of people will wonder if Justin Peters is related to Pete Peters.
- Chris Thorburn wll not score a hat trick.
The Jets have a chance to do something no one imagined possible not long ago. With a win, they can put some serious distance between them and the pack as we near the end of the season. It's games like this that contending teams win, so lets hope that tonight, the Jets show us they're for real.