There will be one less distraction for the Winnipeg Jets as they prepare to face the St Louis Blues in the Gateway To The West. As you’ve all heard by now, the Jets signed Dustin Byfuglien to a 5-year extension at an average of $7.6 million AAV.
Buff’s signing doesn’t mean all of the Jets woes are solved. Far from it. The Jets are still 9 points adrift from the final playoff spot and are only 2 points clear from the bottom of the league standings. Add to the fact the Jets are 0-3 against the Blues this season and you have issues that won’t be solved because one player, albeit really good player decided to stay for the long-term.
Courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com
Drew Stafford will be serving a one-game suspension after a high-sticking incident with Nick Holden of the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. Stafford’s 16 goals leads the Jets and on a team that is starving for goals, he will be missed. He’s even shown improvement analytically (51.6% corsi, 51.3% fenwick) but that might be due to strong linemates. (Stafford’s analytical numbers are historically weak.)
Expect Anthony Peluso to draw into the lineup. The Blues are a big, nasty, physical team and head coach Paul Maurice would like to have some added muscle in the lineup. Peluso has played in all 3 matchups against the Blues, even recording an assist in the November 16 encounter. Small victories.
Byfuglien will be the focus of attention after his big payout but there are other concerns on the defence corps. Maurice has juggled his defensive pairings after a disastrous first period against Carolina on Friday night. It seemed to work on Saturday in Denver but can it carry over remains to be seen.
The pairing of Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba is alarming. Trouba seems lost when he’s paired with Stuart because the veteran is far too often out of position, leaving his young partner hung out to dry. It would be more justifiable to have Trouba pair up with either Byfuglien or Toby Enstrom but for now, he’s stuck with an anchor in the back end.
Michael Hutchinson is coming off an excellent outing against Colorado in which he posted a .941 save percentage. Don’t be surprised if that performance earned Hutch the start against the Blues. Connor Hellebuyck had made 12 consecutive starts and looked to be wearing down. The rookie needs some rest before he returns to the crease.
Ondrej Pavelec is on the road trip but he remains on IR due to a knee injury suffered on November 21.
St Louis (30-17-8)
Vladimir Tarasenko has been a Jet killer this season. The Blues first round pick in 2010 has 7 points (4G, 3A) in the three meetings this season. While the Blues are known for their physicality, it’s been the highly skilled Tarasenko that has done the most damage to the Jets. The Blues won’t have Jaden Schwartz in the lineup due to an ankle problem.
The Blues will be without Alex Pietrangelo because of a knee injury suffered Saturday night in the Blues win over Minnesota. Head coach Ken Hitchcock will have to shift his defensive pairings which may work to the Jets advantage. Robert Bortuzzo will claim a spot in the lineup in Pietrangelo’s absence.
Brian Elliott is quietly having a solid season between the pipes. The Blues netminder is posting a .930 save percentage in 27 appearances. With Jake Allen injured, Elliott will be asked to carry the load for the Blues in net.
Game Prediction: Simply put, the Blues have the Jets number. Expect the tank to roll out of Missouri with a Jets loss in tow. A 4-2 Blues win is the call here.
Obvious Prediction: Games between the Jets and Blues are usually vicious and violent so expect big hits and even a fight or two.
Not So Obvious Prediction: Since Nikolaj Ehlers surprised everyone by getting into a fight on Saturday, I say another player known more for his skill than fisticuffs will drop the gloves. Blake Wheeler perhaps.