It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. We all know Charles Dickens opening words to A Tale Of Two Cities but it does describe the Winnipeg Jets situation. The Jets have won two straight, scoring important victories over divisional foes Nashville and Minnesota on back-to-back nights.
However, Drew Stafford and Adam Lowry have joined Mark Scheifele on the injured reserve list which really tests the Jets in the depth department. The Jets will need all hands on deck as the Colorado Avalanche come to town for their third meeting this season. The Avalanche have won the previous two meetings.
There will be changes to this. With Stafford and Lowry out, the Jets recalled Patrice Cormier and JC Lipon from the Manitoba Moose. Adam Pardy played forward Friday night in Minnesota and he’s likely to remain in the lineup. How head coach Paul Maurice juggles his lines remains to be seen but I don’t envy his position at this moment.
At least the blueline is healthy. The top two pairings (Byfuglien/Trouba, Enstrom/Myers) had excellent games and the Jets won the possession battle whenever those two pairings were on the ice. They’ll need to be as good, if not better against a dangerous Avalanche team that has talent up front. Less said about the Mark Stuart/Ben Chiarot pairing, the better.
It’s Connor Hellebuyck’s crease and we’re all just living vicariously through him. The rookie goalie played both games in the back-to-backs and defied the numbers and logic by winning both, which included a 17-save shutout performance against Minnesota. Barring an unforeseen incident of epic proportions, Hellebuyck will get the call again.
Matt Duchene was the subject of trade rumours earlier this season but the seven-year pro has responded by leading the Avs in scoring with 38 points, (22G, 16A) in 46 games.
Veteran Jarome Iginla scored his 600th career goal back on January 4 and will be a unanimous Hall of Fame selection, when he retires.
This group has struggled for the most part but Tyson Barrie is an underrated, effective defenceman. His 30 points, (8G, 22A) has him 10th in the NHL in scoring amongst defenceman.
Former Jet Zach Redmond has been seeing more ice time recently and should be in the lineup to face his old club. After his scary injury in 2013 in which he suffered a horrific gash on his leg, it is great to see Redmond resume his career after his major scare.
One goalie not mentioned is Calvin Pickard. An alumnus of the Winnipeg Wild midget squad, Pickard recorded his first career shutout on January 14 against New Jersey. Pickard has made the last three starts for the Avs and it’s possible he could get a fourth straight start in the city where he played midget hockey.
Game Prediction: Despite the lack of depth at the forwards for the Jets, the blueline and Hellebuyck are capable of carrying the team on the short-term. The Avalanche analytical numbers are bad. (44.3% corsi, 45.7% fenwick) That’ll catch up to them at some point. Jets win 4-2.
Obvious Prediction: The fans will be dressed warmly. Winnipeg is in the midst of a deep freeze at this moment. Everyone should be relieved this isn’t an outdoor game.
Not So Obvious Prediction: I’m calling a goal for Joel Armia. Since being called up on back in December, the Finnish winger has steadily improved with each passing game. Armia will be moved up on the depth chart because of the injuries and with that comes more ice time, which leads to more scoring chances.