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A loss to the Avalanche snowballed into a four game losing streak as the Jets went 0-for-the-week, losing to Minnesota, Chicago, and Tampa Bay. Assuming 90 points to be the playoff cut-off, the Jets are going to need 36 points in 28 games, which translates to a record somewhere in the neighbourhood of 17-9-2. While it’s not technically impossible, even the most optimistic of Jets fans are starting to pull up the lottery simulator to check the odds of landing Nolan Patrick in this summer’s entry draft. Let’s take a look ahead and see how this coming week shapes up.
After winning three in a row for the first time all season, the Jets stunk up the Pepsi Center last Saturday in Denver and have yet to pick themselves back up. The first three games of the current four game homestand have all been demoralizing losses and the loss of Toby Enstrom early in the proceedings on Saturday night against Tampa Bay doesn’t make the future any brighter. With Tyler Myers already expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks after recent surgery and the Jets playing putrid defensive hockey (they’ve allowed 79 goals in the last 21 games), it’s going to take nothing short of a miracle for this team to turn things around, and even that might not be enough if Toby misses any time. But sports can be highly unpredictable and crazier things have happened.
If there is any hope at all, the wins need to start coming right now and they need to start piling up fast. The homestand finishes up Tuesday night against a team the Jets have beaten three times this year (and lost to once) as the Dallas Stars come back to town. Then the Jets hit the road for a four game trip out east prior to the bye week. They’ll face Pittsburgh on Thursday and then the Habs and Senators in a back-to-back on the weekend, before facing the Maple Leafs in T.O. on Tuesday.
Tuesday, February 14, vs Dallas Stars, MTS Centre, 7PM (TSN3, TSN1290)
The Jets last victory came against the Stars in Dallas 11 days ago. Things haven’t gone well since for the Jets, and they’ve not really gone well for the Stars, either. Dallas went on to lose to the ‘Hawks, Leafs, and Sens, before beating the Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon. They immediately flew out to Nashville to begin a three game road trip, where they blew a 3-0 second period lead in losing 5-3 to the Predators last night. The Stars remained tied with the Jets in the Central division standings with 54 points, though they still have a game in hand. Tyler Seguin, who had three assists in Nashville, leads the team with 54 points (20-34–54). Jamie Benn, with a goal and an assist in Nashville, is right behind him (18-33–51). The Stars have had some injuries this year, with Ales Hemsky missing pretty much the entire year and Johnny Oduya and Jason Spezza going down in recent weeks with injures that are expected to take extended time to heal. They’ve also had real struggles in net (won’t find any sympathy here!) as they keep trotting out Kari Lehtonen (12-16-6, .903, 2.84) and Antti Niemi (10-8-4, .901, 3.20).
Thursday, February 16, @ Pittsburgh Penguins, PPG Paints Arena, 6PM (TSN3, TSN1290)
The Penguins currently sit tied with Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan division and have yet to lose a game in regulation in February. Furthermore, they’ve only lost twice in regulation in their last twelve games so this will be a tough one for a Winnipeg team that desperately needs wins. This will be the Jets’ first meeting of the year with the Penguins, as Pittsburgh will visit the MTS Centre on March 8. Sidney Crosby leads the team (and is second in the league) with 60 points (30 goals and 30 assists). Evgeni Malkin (22-32–54) and Phil Kessel (19-34–53) aren’t far behind him on a Pittsburgh team that leads the league in goals scored. Malkin, however, has been out since January 25 with a left leg injury and his status going into this week is uncertain. Joining him on the injury list is Bryan Rust, who missed the last game with an upper body injury, Carl Hagelin, who is in the concussion protocol, and Conor Sheary, who was placed on the IR with a UBI and will miss four to six weeks. In net for the Pens, 22 year old Matt Murray has split the work load with Marc-Andre Fleury, whose name has been bandied about a lot in Winnipeg recently. Murray (20-6-2, .923SV%, 2.35GAA, with 2 shutouts) has gotten 28 starts to 26 for Fleury, who has gone 26-14-7, with a .904SV%, and 3.17GAA.
The Penguins host the Canucks on Tuesday.
Saturday, February 18, @ Montreal Canadiens, Bell Centre, 1PM (CBC, TSN1290)
The Jets make their sole trip to the Bell Centre to visit the Canadiens on a Saturday afternoon when things going so swell for les Habitants. The Habs sit at 31-19-8 and are in first place but they’ve won only once in their last seven games, and that lone win came against the lowly Arizona Coyotes.
Carey Price has not been himself as of late, letting in four goals in each of his last three starts including a 4-0 loss to Boston last night, and things are tightening up atop the Atlantic division. Ottawa, Boston, and Toronto are not as far back in the rearview as they used to be, so Montreal will be looking to not lose any more ground. Montreal is led by captain Max Pacioretty (28-22–50), free agent sensation Alexander Radulov (14-28–42), and trade-acquired Shea Weber (13-19–32).
The last time these two met, Montreal ran over Winnipeg 7-4. After being shutout by the Bruins last night, Montreal begins its five day bye week, so they’ll be well rested for this rematch.
Sunday, February 19, @ Ottawa Senators, Canadian Tire Centre, 4PM (TSN3, TSN1290)
Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson is one of the stories of the year. His wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer early in the season and the team gave him permission to take whatever time he needed to be by her side. He posted a 33 save shutout against the New York Rangers on November 27th before dropping his next two starts and deciding to take some time off to be with his wife. After 10 weeks off, Anderson returned on Saturday night and put up another 33 save shutout, this time against the New York Islanders. He’s now 13-6-1 on the year, with a blistering .927SV%, a 2.34GAA, and 4 shutouts. Backing him up when he’s been away has been Mike Condon, who has pretty good numbers himself at 16-9-5, .912, 2.56, and 4 SO. Team leaders in scoring are perennial Norris nominee Erik Karlsson (8-37–45) and Winnipeg boy Mark Stone (20-21–41).
Ottawa finishes a homestand against Buffalo on Tuesday, before heading out to New Jersey on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday night. When they face the Jets Sunday evening, both teams will be on the second half of a back-to-back.
Further On Down the Road: The road trip ends Tuesday the 21st with a Laine/Matthews (Laine/Marner?) showdown in Toronto. Then things will get really interesting as the Jets will get their mandated 5-day ‘bye week’ before hosting the Wild on trade deadline day. Surely, the playoff hopes will be fully extinguished by then, right? Will the Jets make any big moves, maybe to sort out expansion draft protections? Will they get any assets in return for pending free agent Drew Stafford?