A Look Ahead: Hanging On For Dear Life

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© Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Two for three last week leaves the Jets with hope still (faintly) alive. A tough week looms, however, and anything less than 4 points will probably put the nail in the coffin. The homestand continues with games Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday; let’s take a look at what’s in store for the Jets this week.

The Jets came back from their bye week break and almost (but not quite) stole one from the Wild before shutting out the Blues and clobbering the Avalanche. The solid play that we’ve seen over the last eight games or so will have to continue this week with home games against the Sharks, Penguins, and red-hot Calgary Flames.

Monday, March 6, vs San Jose Sharks, MTS Centre, 7pm (TSN3, TSN1290)

San Jose sits atop the Pacific Conference with 83 points and come into the MTS Centre tonight after having fallen 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul last night. That loss was their first loss in regulation since February 9, when they lost 6-3 to the Bruins. They’ve already beaten the Jets twice this year (once 5-2 in a Monday matinee in San Jose with Michael Hutchinson in net and then 4-3 less than a week later in Winnipeg against Ondrej Pavelec) and look to complete the season sweep. The Sharks will be without trade deadline pickup Jannik Hansen who is still struggling with visa issues, but they do expect to get winger Jonas Donskoi back from an upper body injury suffered in late January. Brent Burns continues his torrid production and now sits at 67 points on the year (27 goals and 40 assists), which leads the team and is good for third in the league. Martin Jones took the loss in net last night and it will be interesting to see who gets the start for the Sharks; last time they trotted out backup Aaron Dell against the Jets, one of his 11 starts on the year.

Wednesday, March 8 vs Pittsburgh Penguins, MTS Centre, 7pm (TSN3, TSN1290)

The Penguins fortified their defence at the trade deadline by picking up 35 year old Ron Hainsey, youngster Frankie Corrado and veteran Mark Streit from Philadelhia (by way of Tampa Bay). That should hold them while they await the return of injured blueliners Trevor Daley, Kris Letang, and Olli Maata. The Penguins lead the league in goals scored but are average in (14th) in goals against so these were important moves for them as they prepare for another Cup run. The Pens got three points from Justin Schultz (a pickup prior to last year’s deadline) as they scored twice in the third period after Matt Murray gave up three in the first and got the hook last night to defeat the Buffalo Sabres. They have won 4 out of 8 (while grabbing one loser point) since defeating the Jets 4-3 in overtime back on February 16 in Pittsburgh.Sidney Crosby (34-35–69) continues to lead the team in points (and the league in goals, with two more than Patrik Laine) but he’s followed pretty closely by Evgeni Malkin (29-38–67). This will be the first match-up since Malkin left his feet and laid out Jets captain Blake Wheeler with a hit that the league deemed did not require a suspension. 

The Penguins have two days off before facing the Jets on Thursday.

Saturday, March 11 vs Calgary Flames, MTS Centre, 6pm (Sportsnet, TSN1290)

The Flames are, uh, on fire right now. Once battling for a wild card spot, they’ve now won 7 in a row and have points in their last nine (8-0-1) which has vaulted them into a tie for third place in the Pacific with Anaheim. They host Montreal on Thursday night before making the trip to Winnipeg for a Saturday night showdown that could be a pretty important game for both teams. The Flames, 15th in the league in goals for and 17th in goals against, have put it all together at the right time, something the Jets sorely need to do. Calgary is led in scoring by Mikael Backlund (20-27–47) and Johnny Gaudreau (13-31–44), though Sean Monahan (43 points), Matthew Tkachuk (42 points) and Dougie Hamilton (10-31–41) are all right there as well. In net, Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson each have 33 starts on the season though Johnson’s numbers (.913, 2.54, and three shutouts) are a tad better than Elliott’s (.905, 2.65, 0).

Further on Down the Road: The Jets leave the friendly confines of the MTS Centre for a three game road trip out east. A game against divisional rival Nashville will be followed the very next night by a visit to New Jersey. The short road trip wraps up with a date in Brooklyn against a resurgent Andrew Ladd and the New York Islanders.