It might have been four seasons ago since they met in the playoffs, but mention the Anaheim Ducks to any Winnipeg Jets fans and you’re likely to still encounter feelings of resentment and ill-will towards the plucky group from Orange County. The Ducks may no longer have aggravating agitators like Ryan Kesler or Corey Perry on their roster any more, but that doesn’t make them any more likable.
A late October 7-4 loss to the Ducks didn’t do anything to warm Winnipeg’s hearts, but a 3-0 Connor Hellebuyck shutout a little over a week ago helped take away the sting of the previous loss at the Pond. Now the Ducks have flown north for their one and only visit to Winnipeg as the season series between the two teams wraps up today.
Here’s a couple of things to watch for this afternoon as the Jets and Ducks tangle at Bell MTS Place…
Subdued Ducks? Hardly.
Anaheim played in a hard fought 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night in a game that had a combined 66 minutes worth of penalties, two major fights and a lot of chippy play that was all going back to a spitting incident between the two clubs earlier in the season.
The Ducks have had 20+ penalty minutes in a game four of their last eight times out and, overall this season they are 1-6-1 when they’ve gone over 15 minutes in a game. You’d think that would be enough to convince them to settle down and stop taking penalties.
The Jets meanwhile have only gone over 15 minutes in a game once (Nov 27 in San Jose) but they have been taking more penalties as of recently. The best thing for the Jets in this game is not to be dragged into a chippy affair with Anaheim and let them be the undisciplined side. The Ducks power play is just 1 for 11 over their last five games played, while their penalty kill is 10 of 13 (80%) which is still better than their season average but would still be middle of the league.
Shore-ly this will help the fourth line
Making his Winnipeg Jets debut today will be center Nick Shore who was claimed by the Jets off of the waiver wire back on Wednesday. He watched the Jets play from the press box in Dallas on Thursday and after getting in a full practice with the club on Saturday will now center the fourth line between Joona Luoto and Logan Shaw.
One thing I’d like to suggest right away is not to be too panicked over the fact that 19 year old David Gustafsson was sent to the press box over say someone like Shaw. Gustafsson is a natural center and there is no need at this point to force him to play wing when it’s not a position he has a great familiarity with, especially at the pro North American level. He’s likelty going to see World Junior duty or an AHL re-assignment some point very soon.
Also worth considering is that the fourth line you’ll see today against the Ducks won’t be around for very long as both Mason Appleton and Gabriel Bourque are on the mend and close to full returns. Both Appleton and Bourque represent upgrades over Shaw and Luoto and should give the Jets a much more dependable fourth line going forward.
In the meantime, Shore – who is known as a bit of a defensive specialist and someone the Jets can utilize on the penalty kill – hopefully can help improve things on their own as the fourth line for Winnipeg has been bleeding out scoring chances against practically every game.