The Winnipeg Jets conclude their season long five-game road trip, as well as reach the halfway mark of the 2015-16 season Thursday night against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Centre. The Jets are 2-2 on this road trip and are coming off a 4-1 win in Nashville. The Jets currently sit five points out of the final playoff spot so every game matters from here on out.
The Stars sport the best record in the Western Conference but are coming off an embarrassing 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers in which team captain Jamie Benn said his team played “stupid hockey.” The Stars will be in an ornery mood so the Jets must be careful.
These two teams last met on November 12, a game the Stars won 6-3. They will play three more times after this game.
Head coach Paul Maurice has put the lines through the blender recently and he may do more juggling if need be. Drew Stafford could switch spots with either Andrew Ladd or Mathieu Perrault depending on the situation.
Joel Armia has been a nice fit on the fourth line since getting called up. If his play continues to improve, he may see more minutes in crucial situations.
Since being paired together, Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien have been excellent although there are troubling signs. Trouba’s corsi numbers are way down in four out of his last five games. Byfuglien’s corsi numbers are slightly better but they too are down from previous games. Here’s hoping that it’s just a small sample size at play and not a future trend. Mark Stuart and Ben Chiarot continue to give heart attacks to Jet fans with their somewhat wayward play.
To put it mildly, Connor Hellebuyck was really really really really really good on Tuesday night in Nashville, stopping 43 out of 44 shots, many of them of the spectacular variety. Barring a nuclear catastrophe, Hellebuyck will get the start in Dallas.
The big news out of Dallas was that head coach Lindy Ruff moved Tyler Seguin down to the second line with Patrick Sharp and Mattias Janmark while Valeri Nichushkin moved up to join Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza on the top line. Whether Ruff was trying to send a message following the awful loss to the Rangers or he was experimenting with his top six is up for debate. Either way, this forward group is very dangerous.
John Klingberg is quietly putting together an excellent season for the Stars, tallying 38 points (6 G, 32 A) which is third on the team. The Swedish blue liner has a sneaky good shot and has terrific vision. The Jets would be wise to keep an eye out for him.
Antti Niemi has put up better numbers this season but he wasn’t very good on Tuesday which may open the door for former Atlanta Thrasher Kari Lehtonen to get the call between the pipes. Expect a decision by the time the morning skate.
Game Day Prediction: Admittedly, I’m worried about this game. The Stars will be eager to bounce back after a rough night on Tuesday and they have the horses to skate circles around the opposition. The Jets were fortunate to escape Music City with a win but they will be tired as this long road trip ends. I’m picking the Stars to win 5-2 but I picked the Jets to lose on Tuesday as well. Reverse psychology needs to happen.
Obvious Prediction: The Stars jumbotron operator will troll Winnipeg in a humorous way and Jets fans will get upset about it.
— BarDown (@BarDown) January 2, 2016
Not So Obvious Prediction: Hellebuyck will come back down to earth after his amazing showing on Tuesday. Then again, he could frustrate the Stars like he did the Predators. Goalies. You’ve got to love them.