Hockey has – finally – returned, well, at least it has away from the ‘True North.’
Due to attendance restrictions at Canada Life Centre, the Winnipeg Jets aren’t able to host a home game through Jan. 10, ultimately causing their hiatus to extend to two weeks. But now, their gameless streak will happily come to an end Sunday as they visit the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Unlike the Jets, this matinee affair will be the Golden Knights’ third contest since returning from the holiday break, which has seen them earn a 2-0-0 record during that span. Additionally, they’ve also outscored their opponents 9-4 over their previous two games, including a 6-3 victory against the Los Angeles Kings back on Dec. 28.
Safe to say, this Sunday afternoon showdown could end up featuring plenty of fireworks in what’ll be the first contest of 2022 for both franchises. Although, let’s hope the road team will be the last one left standing when the final buzzer sounds.
For a preview of this showdown, here are three skaters to watch during this contest between the Jets and Golden Knights:
Last Game: Zero points, seven shots on goal, two hits
Coming out of this two-week break, forward Pierre-Luc Dubois remains on a two-game pointless streak and will be aiming to end that stretch during this contest against the Golden Knights. While skating next to teammate Kyle Connor – along with Jansen Harkins – odds are the 23-year-old should have a pretty strong chance to accomplish that feat.
Historically, Dubois has posted two goals and five points through six career games against Vegas. Granted, that’s not a large sample size, however, his production while facing this opponent still shouldn’t be overlooked, especially given how he’s performed this season.
With the Jets hoping to start strong in the opening frame, receiving another impressive showing from No. 80 could be exactly what this team needs to do just that.
Last Game: One goal, two points, three shots on goal, one hit
Prior to the holiday break, the trio of Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and Paul Stastny was rolling at a fairly high level and though they haven’t appeared in any game action over the last two weeks, it doesn’t appear like their connection will be slowing down any time soon.
With that in mind, in particular, Scheifele could be poised for a notable offensive showing Sunday as he enters this contest having registered six goals and 11 points over his last eight games.
Paired with his career three goals and seven points against the Golden Knights, experiencing some rust might be the only factor that prevents the 6’3″ centre from leading the Jets on the score sheet during their first of three straight road games.
Last Game: Stopped 26 of 28 shots against in a 4-2 winning effort
After starting 24 of Winnipeg’s first 30 games in 2021-22, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck received a well-deserved two-week break from game action, albeit, one he was hoping to avoid in favour of the NHL’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics.
Now, instead of practicing with his teammates once again, the 28-year-old will finally be tasked with some unfriendly competition as he prepares for his seventh career start against Vegas. In the six previous meetings, the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner didn’t fare overly well, as he allowed a 3.21 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage.
Despite those disappointing results, Hellebuyck did record a 29-save shutout during his lone matchup against them in 2019-20. So here’s to hoping that version of the 6’4″ netminder shows up rather than the one that struggled to keep pucks out of his net in those other five contests.