Tonight offers up exhibit “A” as to why Winnipeg is at a bit of a disadvantage schedule wise this season versus the rest of their division. At home Thursday after a monster road trip, then a short return to the road for one game in Columbus. That is followed by a very tough three game home stand starting Monday. No doubt a team based in Atlanta wouldn’t have as many travel hiccups this weekend but it is what it is…
Goalie Chris Mason will return to the pipes tonight as he gets his first action since the bizarre Flyers game on October 27th where he played only a few minutes, came in cold, and hurt his groin. It will be interesting to watch him play Columbus where rumours have it that the Blue Jackets are interested in his services. Not sure how credible those are but it would be hard for the Jets to move their backup when it was obvious they had no faith in playing Peter Mannino. That being said Mason is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season so maybe there is some logic to the rumour.
Columbus is a mess. If you think things have been tough from a Jets point of view, look at the opposition tonight and thank your lucky stars! The huge summer trade that brought Jeff Carter to Columbus so far has not been very good as Carter started the year injured and has 3 assists in 5 games. Their big free agent signing James Wisniewski was suspended to start the year and has only played 7 games. He now has 4 assists in those games but is a whopping -9. Not exactly the kind of start you want with your new employer. The biggest story though is the continued struggles of Steve Mason who is looking more like Jim Carey every day. (You may be familiar with the story of the ‘Net Detective, very similar to this one…) It’s obvious to everyone that he needs a change of scenery or his career may be over.
Vinny Prospal leads the team in scoring with 13 points in 15 games, which is a great start for him. It also proves my theory that if Prospal is your leading scorer you are not a good team. In case you are wondering, Columbus is 2-12-1 on the season and 2-8 in their last 10. Rick Nash is no doubt their biggest weapon and he has 12 points so far. On the down side, he is also -9 so far. The Blue Jackets are easily the worst team in the league so far this season so they will be hoping to jump all over a well traveled Winnipeg squad.
Winnipeg is still being lead by big Nik Antropov who quite frankly has been a revelation so far this year. His absence from the lineup recently was noticeable and really affected the Jets in a negative way. That is probably the ultimate compliment to a player’s value. Alex Burmistrov has cooled some from his hot start, which is not at all unexpected. Burmistrov is still very young and will be subject to many peaks and valleys. He’s also going to be subject to tough line matching on the road as he continues to play well. Speaking of which, Kyle Wellwood and his agent had better make sure they play this right. Yes he is going to deserve a nice raise and good term on his next deal. Be careful not to overplay your hand though or you could become the next Anson Carter. Wellwood has done everything asked of him and more and had become one of the top forwards on this team.
Coach Claude Noel tore into his team and they should be far more focused than they were against Florida. I expect the win for the Jets tonight, but lookout if they don’t score the first goal.
The game tonight is at 6.00PM CST and can be seen on Hockey Night in Canada.