0
Photo Credit: © Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

WTWF: Jets Begin The Road Trip For Real By Visiting Anaheim

Technically the Winnipeg Jets road trip started this past weekend when they went to Regina for the Heritage Classic, but that still was counted as a home game for the club (and based on reactions during the anthem and when they scored, it was).

Tonight marks the “official” start of a three game road trip for the Jets as they will play the Anaheim Ducks, a team they’ve had pretty decent success against the last couple of seasons having won the last four consecutive games against the Ducks and are 6-0-1 in their last seven contests against Anaheim.

The Ducks are just coming back from their own road trip and it didn’t go so well as they went 1-3-0, punctuated by a beat-down in Vegas. Anaheim is 4-1-0 at home though and always seem to play a bit tougher in front of their fans.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Here’s a few other things to watch for tonight as you drink a bunch of coffee in an effort to stay up late for this one…

1) Lots of holes up front

Mason Appleton went out with injury this past weekend and he now joins Mark Letestu on the IR. Adam Lowry has been told to sit down for the next two games due to his reckless hit on Oliver Kylington and Patrik Laine may or may not play in this game thanks to a “bump” taken from Luca Sbisa during Jets practice on Monday.

The Jets are so shorthanded with forwards right now that the injured Nathan Beaulieu skated with the forward group just to make sure the team had four full lines taking part in drills. They called up Logan Shaw from the AHL Moose yesterday and he’ll draw into the lineup tonight. If Laine can’t go then perhaps the Jets dress one of their healthy defensemen and move him up to the fourth line?

Yikes.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Jets right now are that proverbial cartoon dam with leaks springing up all over the place, but in this case Kevin Cheveldayoff and Paul Maurice are trying to plug those holes with waiver wire claims and AHL-intended signings from this past summer. It’s not pretty right now.

2) The Luca Sbisa Effect

The Anaheim Ducks signed Luca Sbisa with the idea that he was going to be sent to their AHL affiliate in San Diego and help add to the team’s overall depth at defense. To do that though they needed Sbisa to clear waivers. The Jets thought adding to their overall defensive depth was a swell idea only they actually needed a body or two for their NHL team so they claimed Sbisa.

The Ducks still wanted to add a defenseman to their roster, especially after Josh Mason was injured on Thursday night, so having “missed out” on Sbisa, they traded for Erik Gudbranson from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Gudbranson should be making his debut against the Jets tonight.

Meanwhile Sbisa – who probably was still a bit sore at the idea that he was headed to play hockey in San Diego only to be claimed by Winnipeg – “bumped” into Laine and hurt him enough that Laine’s playing status for tonight is in question.

And you all said Luca Sbisa wasn’t an impact player… Pfft.

3) Special teams needs to get special

The Jets power play ranks 22nd in the league with a very poor 16.3% rate. The penalty kill is far worse with 64% rate that ranks dead last in the NHL. The issues on special teams are well publicized and for very good reason. If the Jets are going to be this bad at both aspects of special teams, then it’s not going to matter how good goaltending is, or if the Jets can find some scoring from their bottom six forwards, or how improved the defense is at even strength 5v5 play.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The good news tonight though is the Ducks have also struggled with their special teams play with a power play that’s been even worse than Winnipeg’s (9.7%) and a penalty kill that by default is slightly better but is still pretty bad (78.7%).

The Ducks on average are taking about 10 minutes of penalties per game while opponents against them take a little under eight per game. Given the Jets have excelled at staying out of the box so far this season, tonight is as good a chance as any for the Jets to help bump both of their numbers toward positive directions.

4) Expect low scoring with these goalies playing

Connor Hellebuyck is going to get the call for Winnipeg and in all but two of his nine starts this season he’s posted a save percentage of .920 or better even with him facing an average of 33 shots per game.

It’s expected that the Ducks will go with John Gibson who is posting his typical good numbers even behind a team defense that gives up a ton of shots. Gibson has a .923 save percentage while facing an average of 31 shots per game. His last start though was a bit of a clunker as he gave up five to the Vegas Golden Knights, but the fault can’t be placed all on him as Vegas was dominant in all aspects of the game as the Ducks were also in the second game of a back-to-back set over the weekend. One trend that has been true of Gibson though over the last couple of seasons is that he’s always bounced back well after bad games and tonight could be just another example of that.