The Jets will open a week of tough opponents trying to find that elusive three game win streak. Their ninth attempt at achieving something they only did once all last year will come as part of an early-week back-to-back against the top two teams in the Pacific division. Then they’ll hit the road to face an old Central division rival for the fourth time this year before taking the weekend off for the All-Star festivities. Well, most of the Jets will take the weekend off – with Patrik Laine fully practising without restrictions, he may head to LA to strut his stuff amongst the league’s best.
There are only three teams in the NHL that the Jets have yet to play this season. Two teams in the East (Ottawa and Pittsburgh, who the Jets will see on the same road trip in mid-February) and one team in the West – Anaheim. The Ducks come to town Monday night as the Jets try and win three in a row and build some momentum towards getting back in the playoff mix. It will be a tall order against the team that swept them out of the playoffs in their only appearance. The very next night will bring another difficult matchup against a team that ran them over just a week prior in San Jose. It will be interesting to see what the Jets do with their goaltenders in the back-to-back situation and then it will be extra interesting to see what they do when they head to Chicago.
Monday, January 23, vs Anaheim Ducks, MTS Centre, 7pm, TSN3, TSN1290
The Ducks lead the Pacific and have lost once in regulation in their last seven games. Randy Carlyle’s club is led on the scoresheet by the familiar trio of Ryan Kesler (18-21–39), Ryan Getzlaf (6-29–35), and Corey Perry (9-25–34). The Ducks will post a real challenge to the Jets up the middle, and Paul Maurice will have decisions to make as to which lines he deploys against Getzlaf, Kesler, and Richard Rakell (19-9–28). Things might be a bit muddy in net for the Ducks, as starting goaltender John Gibson (who is having a great year going 19-10-8, with a .921SV%, 2.27GAA, and 3 shutouts) left Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to Minnesota late in the first period. It’s unknown if he will be available, so the Ducks may have to turn to Johnathan Bernier , who has gone 7-4-1, with an .899 and a 2.95. Another potential injury issue for Anaheim is the recent loss of winger Jakob Silfverber (13-16–29), who missed the Minnesota game with an upper-body injury.
Tuesday, January 24, vs San Jose Sharks, MTS Centre, 7pm, TSN3, TSN1290
Last Monday, Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States, saw the San Jose Sharks set off a one-time unthinkable chain of events in Winnipeg. The Sharks mopped the floor with the Jets, scoring four goals on Michael Hutchinson and adding an empty-netter for a 5-2 win that triggered the recall of Ondrej Pavelec and set Jets Twitter on fire. Since then the Sharks have run off three more wins (over LA 3-2, Tampa Bay 2-1, and Colorado 3-2 in overtime) and find themselves one point off the division lead in the Pacific (and tied with the Edmonton Oilers). The Sharks will also be in the second game of a back-to-back as they visit Colorado Monday night. Brent Burns has been outstanding this year (19-28–47) and leads the team in points. Joe Pavelski isn’t far behind (16-25–41). There is a chance that Tomas Hertl (4 goals and 5 assists in 17 games this season) returns to the lineup as he is almost recovered from a sprained right knee suffered in mid-November. In net, Martin Jones has also been having a fabulous season, with a 24-14-2 record in 40 starts, posting a save percentage of .917 with 2 shutouts and a 2.24 goals against average. As the Sharks are on a back-to-back, there’s a chance the Jets might see the backup netminder, Aaron Dell, who has started 7 games, going 5-2 with a .933 and a 1.84.
Thursday, January 26, @ Chicago Blackhawks, United Center, 7:30pm, TSN3, TSN1290
The final game before the All-Star break starts off a string of six straight against Central division teams that will go a long, long way towards determining the fate of the Jets’ season. This one will be against the second place Chicago Blackhawks, a team the Jets have beaten three times in three attempts this year. Each one of those games saw Connor Hellebuyck in net at his best – a save percentage of .977, goals against average of .067, and a shutout. This game will mark the end of a three game homestand for the Blackhawks, as they face Vancouver Sunday night and Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Prior to those games, the ‘Hawks have won two in a row, beating Colorado and Boston.
Further on Down the Road: After the break, the tour of the Central continues, with a trip to St. Louis to take on the Blues to end January, followed by dates in Dallas and Colorado, before coming home to take on the Wild and Blackhawks.