Photo Credit: © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A Look Ahead: Playing Out The String

Jets defensemen are dropping like flies – Ben Chiarot is the latest to be among the walking wounded after he left Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild – and it’s left the club with a very thing group to try and deal with what is going to be a busy week with four games over the next seven days.The Jets aren’t out of the playoffs, but being 10 points out of the last spot as of press time with 10 games left to play is as “out of the playoff race” as a team can get without it being official. That said, there are a handful of reasons to keep watching and you may need to remind your bleary eyed self of that a few times later this week as the team heads out to Los Angeles (well and Anaheim which let’s face it is just a more pretentious Los Angeles) for a couple of late night affairs out on the west coast.

Why tune in you ask? Well they have the chance to have a say in how the playoff picture plays out in both conferences and possibly delivery a big time death blow for a couple of opponents, they’ll have a chance to play some younger players and see what they can bring to the table for next season possibly (or ya know, keep throwing out Thorburn and Stuart as PoMo is want to do) and there is still Patrick Laine’s pursuit of both the Calder trophy as well as the outside shot he still has at the Rocket Richard trophy.

Tuesday, March 21, vs Philadelphia Flyers, MTS Centre, 7 pm (TSN3, TSN1290)

The Flyers – much like the Jets – are still in a playoff race, but only by the slimmest of margins and would need to go almost perfect in their last ten and home for some teams to stumble ahead of them. Also much like the Jets, players on the Flyers such as Claude Giroux have stated as recently as last week after a fairly dominant 4-0 win over the Penguins, that they feel they have a better team than what their season record has indicated. Tuesday is the start of a brutal four game road trip this week where the Flyers get the Wild, Blue Jackets and Penguins after their visit to Winnipeg, so expect the Flyers to come out on fire.

Part of Philly’s struggles this year can be traced to a few disappointing seasons from key players including Giroux who only has 14 goals on the season and may miss the 20 goal mark for the first time since the 2009-10 season (not including the labour shortened 2012-13 season). Shane Gostisbehere has also been a notable healthy scratch a dozen times or so following what had been a stellar rookie season prior. They also haven’t had any overall reliable goaltending as Steve Mason has shown flashes of brilliance but has mostly struggled.

Thursday, March 23, at Los Angeles Kings, Staples Center, 9:30 pm (TSN3, TSN1290)

The Kings are another team that are almost beyond the point of no return as they are six points out of a playoff spot with ten games left to play. Their lack of offense hasn’t been helped as they’ve dealt with injuries to key players such as Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli and Marian Gaborik. Jeff Carter has been the lone beacon of hope for the Kings as his 31 goals and 60 points really should really have him at least near the MVP conversation. The next closest King in scoring is Anze Kopitar who along with the injury troubles, started the season awfully slow and only has 44 points in 65 games played. Unless he catches fire to close the season, his goal total (right now at 10) will be the lowest of his career.

The Kings are coming off a very tough pair of games in Alberta where they were out-scored 7-3 and their sub-.500 record on the road has been yet another factor into why they are on the outside looking into a playoff position.

One thing the Jets should be careful of going into the game? The Kings penalty kill which is 3rd in the league right now. Overall their defense and goaltending have been very good season long even with the injury to Jonathan Quick.

Friday March 24, at Anaheim Ducks, Honda Center, 9:00 pm (TSN3, TSN1290)

Of the four teams the Jets will face this week, the Ducks are the only team pretty much certain to be playing some postseason hockey as they are still within striking distance of the Sharks for 1st place in the Pacific and in a three-way battle with Edmonton and Calgary for one of the two following Pacific division spots.

The Ducks have won five of their last seven (not withstanding what they do against the Oilers on Wednesday) and have been playing very well defensively only allowing 12 goals in that stretch. Goalie John Gibson has been a standout for the Ducks all season long but has recently been day to day with a lower body injury. In his place Jonathan Bernier has been lights out including a 33 save effort against the Sharks last Saturday night.

On offense the Ducks have shown that they have tremendous depth led by Rickard Rakell who has had a breakout season with 31 goals and 43 points which ties his career high from last season in 11 less games played. Of course Getzlaf (who leads scoring with 59 points – 49 of which are assists), Kesler (2nd with 50) and Corey Perry are all in the mix as well.

Sunday March 26, vs Vancouver Canucks, MTS Centre, 7:00 pm (SN, TSN1290)

The last Jets game of the week sees them head back home for a Hometown Hockey matchup against the Vancouver Canucks who are on fire.

A figurative tire fire that is.

Losers of their last six games as of press time, they’ll have done a road trip through Central division hell with stops in Chicago tonight, St. Louis Thursday, Minnesota on Saturday before getting to Winnipeg the next night so that game is likely to be your proverbial “mean nothing, play out the string” late march contest.

There at least is a very real chance that the game could see a prospect or two called up for each side. Brock Boeser is rumored to be possibly joining the Canucks for a handful of games to get a look and of course the Jets may have suffered five or six more injuries by that point as well so a look Kyle Connor or Brendan Lemieux wouldn’t be out of the question either.

Further On Down the Road: The Jets were supposed to have a nice three day break after this tough week before hosting the Ducks on Thursday, but mother nature had other ideas and forced the NHL to reschedule the Jets game in New Jersey from March 15 to March 28 which means a lost day off and the other two off days will be for extra travel they wouldn’t have had to deal with.