With a points-percentage that ranks above only the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes (and behind the likes of the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings), there is no mistaking that the Winnipeg Jets have not played like a good hockey team this season. There have been flashes, yes, but the wins are not coming fast enough and they’re not getting the points needed to climb in the standings. With that being said, however, they are only four points back of the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Things don’t feel great in Jetsland these days, but things are far from over. It should take somewhere around ninety points to get to the playoffs, so the Jets will need about 46 points in 36 games to get there. A record of 20-13-3 sounds like a tall order for this club, so if they’re going to get there, they’ll have to start winning now and that means that good showings are imperative in games against San Jose, Arizona, and St. Louis this week.
The three game west coast road trip will end today, with an afternoon matinee on Martin Luther King Day. The Jets will fly home to get ready to try and redeem themselves after an awful showing in Arizona on Friday night and this time the Coyotes should have Jets’ castaway Alexander Burmistrov in the lineup. Two days off at home gives them time to prepare for the St. Louis Blues in a Central division match-up that will give us a sense of whether or not there’s any fight left in this team.
Monday, January 16, @ San Jose Sharks, SAP Center, 3pm (TSN3, TSN1290)
The Sharks sit in third place in the Pacific and are coming off losses to the Flames and Blues and will be trying to avoid their fourth three-game losing streak of the season. They currently rank fourth in the league in goals against (100) but are near the bottom (21st) in goals for. They are led in scoring by Norris candidate Brent Burns who has 17 goals and 27 assists for 44 points. Behind him are three centremen Joe Pavelski (15-24–39), Logan Couture (14-13–27), and Jumbo Joe Thornton (2-24–26) whose not scoring many goals, but is still finding ways to contribute. In net, Martin Jones is getting the lion’s share of starts with a 21-14-2 record in 37 games. He’s sporting a .916SV% and a 2.26GAA with 2 shutouts on the year. Backing him up has been Aaron Dell, who has gotten six starts, going 4-2-0 with a .929 and 1.96 with one shutout to his credit. On the injured list for the Sharks are Tomas Hertl, out since mid-November with a right knee issue, and defenceman Dylan DeMelo who is out for eight weeks with a broken wrist. Winger Joonas Donskoi missed the last game with an upper body injury and it is unknown if he will be able to face the Jets Monday afternooon.
Wednesday, January 18, vs Arizona Coyotes, MTS Centre, 6:30pm (Sportsnet, TSN1290)
The lowly Coyotes were shutout at home 3-0 by the Anaheim Ducks to snap their two-game win streak. Those two wins came over the New York Islanders and the Winnipeg Jets (when the Jets forgot to show up until the second period) and were preceded by nine straight losses. The focus in this one will be seeing if the Jets can put forth a better effort than we saw in the first period at the Gila River Arena on Friday and everyone will be hoping to see ex-Jet Alexander Burmistrov’s triumphant return to Winnipeg now that he’s got his visa issues resolved. The ‘Yotes are led in scoring by Radim Vrbata (9-18–27) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (8-15–23), thought it was rookie Brandon Perlini (6-1–7) who scored two against the Jets in a 4-3 win. Between the pipes, Mike Smith (8-11-5, .918, 2.83) and Louis Domingue (5-11-1, .899, 3.17) have both faced the Jets this season, with Smith getting the win last week and Domingue taking a 3-2 loss back in November.
Saturday, January 21, vs St. Louis Blues, MTS Centre, 2pm (TSN3, TSN1290)
The Jets have seemed to play their best hockey this season against Central division foes and they’ll try and do it again as the Blues come to town for the first time this season. The Blues are currently sitting in third place in the Central, behind Chicago and Minnesota, with 49 points, 5 more than Winnipeg. The Jets are 1-0 vs St. Louis this season, registering a 3-2 overtime victory in Missouri in early December. That loss snapped a three ame win streak for the Blues and they haven’t put back-to-back wins together since. Vladimir Tarasenko leads the team with 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points while Jake Allen (17-11-3, .900, 2.76, 1SO) and Carter Hutton (5-5-2, .901, 2.76) have been the netminders.
Further On Down the Road: Next week sees a back-to-back at home against California teams as the Jets face the Ducks for the first time on Monday and the Sharks are back again on Tuesday. Then they’ll head to the United Center where they are undefeated this year and they’ll hopefully be riding a five game win streak!