JGD 61: New Look Jet Face Sid And The Pens

Jeremy Wiebe
February 27 2016 08:00AM

What do the Winnipeg Jets do for an encore? After all this team went through on Thursday, everything else seems rather ordinary. 

It started by hearing the news that top centre Bryan Little will miss the remainder of the season due to a compression fracture in the vertebrae. 

Then, just 30 minutes before game time, the team learned that captain Andrew Ladd was traded to Chicago for Marko Dano, a first round pick in 2016 and a conditional third round pick in 2018.

The day ended with the Jets scoring a dramatic 6-3 win over Dallas, their first win in five meetings with the Stars this season. 

So yes, Thursday was an eventful day for the organization and its fans. Things should be less chaotic when the Jets face Pittsburgh at Consol Energy Centre.

The teams faced each other back on December 27 with the Jets scoring a 1-0 victory, thanks to a penalty shot goal from Bryan Little, and splendid goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck. Little as mentioned before is injured while Hellebuyck is toiling with the Manitoba Moose. Oh well.

Lineups:

Winnipeg: (26-30-4)

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With Ladd traded and Little injured, the top line looks radically different for the Jets. Both Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers get promoted to the first line alongside Blake Wheeler. This shows the Jets are thinking about next year and the years down the road.

Joel Armia had a very impressive outing against Dallas, scoring twice including a dazzling individual effort that resulted in some extra youtube clips for the young Finn. As his confidence grows, so should his ice time.

Where Marko Dano fits in is unknown but he could see time with Mathieu Perreault and Drew Stafford. We will know more closer to puck drop.

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There is a chance this could be Adam Pardy and Paul Postma's last game with the Jets. Both are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and the trade deadline is on Monday. While neither player will draw a large return back, if the Jets can stockpile a draft pick or two in separate deals, then it's possible that both defenceman could be on their way out. We'll know more on Monday.

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If the Jets can move Ondrej Pavelec and his contract at the deadline, they should do so. Having said that, the chances of that happening are the same as me getting married this year. Zero!

Pittsburgh: (30-21-8)

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The Penguins will welcome back Evgeni Malkin, who missed the last 10 games with a lower-body injury. With Sidney Crosby (who is pretty good at this hockey thing) and Malkin at centre, the Pens have a deadly one-two punch down the middle which makes them extremely difficult to contain.

The Pens need a healthy Malkin down the stretch as they hold a slender one point lead over the New Jersey Devils for the final wildcard spot in the East. The playoff drive begins in earnest in Pittsburgh.

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On Friday, the Pens inked Olli Maatta to a 6-year contract extension avoiding the risk of losing the defenceman to free agency.

With that distraction out of the way, the Pens can focus on matters relating to playoffs and such. 

The Pens do have decent analytical numbers, (52% Corsi, 52.1% Fenwick) and the majority of the time dominate possession against their opponents. The Jets will need to play a smart, patient game and not let the Pens have their way with the puck. Easier said than done.

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Expect Marc-Andre Fleury to get the start for Pittsburgh. The Pens need points and Fleury, despite his flaws is the best option between the pipes for Pittsburgh. 

Predictions:

Game Prediction: This is a bad combination. The Pens need every point in order to hold off the Devils while the Jets could be emotionally spent after the roller-coaster ride that was Thursday. Pittsburgh wins a high-scoring affair 6-3.

Obvious Prediction: Sidney Crosby won't get traded following the game.

Not So Obvious Prediction: Marko Dano will record his first point as a Jet. Call it a hunch.

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I like hockey. I like the Jets. Sometimes they make me happy. Sometimes they make me sad. Sometimes I write about them. I'm not a great writer, but I play one on TV. You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973
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