(Editors note: Thanks to someone not reading the schedule properly – that *someone* being me – we have two sets of What To Watch For notes to pass along your way today! Different perspectives are good, right? – Art)
Following the Winnipeg Jets dominating 5-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks back on Wednesday, they’ll now be tasked with facing the struggling 11-11-4 Anahiem Ducks. Entering this American-themed holiday, the Ducks have lost nine of their last eleven games and have surrendered four goals or more in eight of those nine defeats.
This will also be the second game of the Jets’ current three-game road trip, which concludes in Los Angeles Saturday night. Back on Oct. 29, the Jets were embarrassed by the Ducks 7 to 4 during their previous meeting at the Honda Center. For Winnipeg’s sake, they’re hoping to avoid another blowout loss against the Ducks. In fact, with a Jets victory and a Dallas Stars loss, Winnipeg would move into sole possession of second place in the Central division.
1) Dominance with Penalty-Killing Unit
During the Jets dominating win over the Sharks Wednesday night, their outstanding effort and performance on the penalty kill played a major factor in earing them their 15th win of the season. The Sharks failed to convert on all six of their power-play opportunities, including a late five-on-four power play that involved both forwards MARK SCHEIFELE and Kyle Connor being ejected from the rest of the game.
Overall, the Jets own one of the worst conversion rates with their penalty-killing unit, as their rate of 75% ranks eighth-worst in the league. However, Winnipeg’s penalty kill has barely surrendered any goals while on the road. Entering this game, the Jets’ penalty-killing unit has produced the sixth-best conversion rate (83.3%) on the road this season. So along with Anaheim creating the worst home powerplay success rate (8.6%), the Jets should be able to once again prevent the opposing team from scoring with the man advantage.
2) Ice Baths for Everyone
Before the American players from both the Jets and Ducks enjoy their Black Friday shopping, they’ll very likely need to dip their bruised bodies into an ice bath immediately after the game. Coming into today’s game, Winnipeg and Anaheim have both been among the league leaders in total hits this season. Currently, Winnipeg sits eleventh in the league with 568 hits, while Anaheim ranks 12th in the league with 560 total hits.
The Jets’ second defensive pairing will likely lead their team’s physicality this afternoon. So far this season, defensemen Neal Pionk and Dmitry Kulikov have combined to generate 13.7% of Winnipeg’s hits this season. Pionk has also finished second on the Jets in hits in each of their last four games as well. So, the Ducks’ forwards will need to keep their heads up when these two are on the ice together.
3) Additional Role Continuing for Andrew Copp
Over the past six games, forward Andrew Copp has been utilized in a larger way with the Jets. Prior to the Jets victory over the Florida Panthers back on Nov. 14, Copp hadn’t received more than 18 minutes of ice time this season. During that game in Florida, Copp played 20:03 minutes and produced an assist in their 4-3 win over the Panthers. In the five games since then, Copp has averaged 19:13 minutes of TOI/game.
With his added ice time, Copp has recorded a total of one goal and five points over his last six games. Since the Jets are still without injured center Bryan Little, Copp will continue to center Winnipeg’s second power-play unit, which should continue to provide him with tons of opportunities to produce offensively for his team.
This game will begin slow as neither team will produce any goals during the opening period. During the second period, the Ducks will come out strong and score a pair of goals before the Jets are able to even produce a single goal. Despite Anaheim’s two-goal lead to start the final frame, Winnipeg is able to generate three goals in the third period, with their final one coming with just two minutes left in the game.