It’s another huge Central Division showdown tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks are back in town for the second time on this homestand. Winnipeg went down early in the first game but managed to fight their way back and pick up an important two points. With Chicago losing a few games on their western road trip, it makes tonight’s game even more important as the Blackhawks desperately need a win to get back into the wildcard race.
Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s pivotal game.
As mentioned above, this game is very important for the wildcard race. Chicago currently sits six points out of a wildcard spot and would need to leapfrog four different teams to get into the playoffs. In relation to the Jets, Chicago is only three points back with a game in hand. If Chicago wins outright tonight, that leaves them only one point back of the Jets, still with a game in hand.
Winnipeg on the other hand, can get to within one point of the wildcard spot with a victory over the Blackhawks. The Jets are currently tied with Nashville for the first wildcard spot and they both are sitting three points behind Calgary and Arizona.
All three of Calgary, Arizona, and Minnesota are idle tonight, with Nashville taking on St. Louis and Chicago facing Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Jets found it tough to score against San Jose on Friday night and one of the reasons was due to the lack of shots. Winnipeg was severely out-shot throughout the night, especially at five on five, with most of their opportunities coming with the man-advantage. The Jets will need to get many more pucks towards the net tonight if they want a chance to win.
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeAthletic) February 15, 2020
However, a lack of shots doesn’t always mean a lack of chances. There were a number of opportunities for the Jets to score against the Sharks and they weren’t able to convert. In the first period alone, they had three really strong scoring chances without actually registering a shot on goal. Watch for Winnipeg to not only get pucks to the net, but to finish their chances when they appear.
With Niku coming out of the lineup and Poolman coming back in, the defense continues to change on a nightly basis. The report was that Niku was battling a small injury and needed some time to heal up, but others thought that he got taken out of the lineup for getting beat against the Rangers.
So what will the defense look like tonight? Your guess is as good as mine until we see what’s out there for warmup. If Niku’s ready to play, he will most likely slot in on the third pairing alongside Nathan Beaulieu. If Niku stays out, then it will likely be the exact pairings as Friday night.
The forward group should remain unchanged as Perreault and Lowry both remained sidelined for the next week or two. Lastly, the worst news of all came out yesterday that Bryan Little would miss the remainder of the season to continue healing his injury.
The Jets desperately need a win after losing two straight on this homestand. Hopefully, they come out with a little more energy because of the standings implications of this game. Look for a hard-fought battle as these teams both fight for their playoff lives. Winnipeg gets the victory, but the game is close from start to finish. 4-3 Jets win.