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Three Storylines Heading into Jets Regular Season Opener

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Photo credit:AP
Thomas Hall
1 year ago
It’s finally here, the Winnipeg Jets are finally back in action on Thursday and will look to open the regular season on a good note, as they’ll be attempting to exact some revenge on the Calgary Flames – who eliminated them from last season’s playoffs.
Sorry for the harsh reminder.
Here are three storylines that could impact the Jets’ season opener against the Flames:

1. How will the revamped second line perform? 

With forward @Bryan Little slated to be placed on the long-term injured reserve, the Jets knew they needed to retool their second line over the off-season, as they reacquired center @Paul Stastny from the Las Vegas Golden Knights. But the changes didn’t stop there, as the club has also moved @Kyle Connor – who spent last season on the top line – down to the second line, pairing @Patrik Laine, Stastny, and Connor all together.
Considering this line will now feature a pair of 30-goal scorers on each side, along with a playmaker in the middle, there’s a very strong chance this trio will light up the scoreboard consistently this season. That being said, it’ll definitely be interesting to discover how much chemistry they were able to create without participating in any preseason games.

2. Can Winnipeg rely on its blue line? 

After losing several key defensemen last season, including @Jacob Trouba, @Tyler Myers, and @Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets’ blue line struggled mightily and couldn’t find their footing before it was too late. Now one year later, those same questions remain and everyone is wondering whether the front office has done enough to prevent those woes from occurring once again in 2021.
Without question, having defenseman @Dylan DeMelo – who posted 14 blocks, 11 hits, 10 shots on net, and one takeaway through 10 games last season – for a full season will certainly help improve this team moving forward. Entering his fourth season in the league, this defensive group should also be able to take a positive step forward if @Neal Pionk – who recorded career-highs in assists (39), points (45), power-play points (25), and hits (165) in 2019-20 – can continue growing his game throughout this 56-game shortened campaign.

3. Without any preseason games, could Connor Hellebuyck struggle early on this season? 

Following one of the top statistical performances of his career – where he finished with the most shutouts (six) and saves (1,656), the second-most wins (31), and the second-highest shorthanded save percentage (.980) among all goalies in the league – @Connor Hellebuyck was rightfully awarded the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy. While the 27-year old essentially saved the Jets’ season, it’d be very beneficial if didn’t have to face as many shots this time around.
But if the club fails to accomplish that feat, it’s possible Hellebuyck might not be as sharp this season, especially since he didn’t receive any exhibition reps, other than in scrimmages, before training camp concluded. With that in mind, it’ll be very interesting to watch how the 6-foot-4 netminder performs if he’s tested early in the opening period during his first contest of the season.

Lineups: 

Winnipeg Jets: 
LWCRW

NIKOLAJ EHLERS
Rating: 75.7#20 LW

MARK SCHEIFELE
Rating: 76.8#19 C

BLAKE WHEELER
Rating: 76.3#22 RW

KYLE CONNOR
Rating: 79.5#5 LW

PAUL STASTNY
Rating: 74.8#36 C

PATRIK LAINE
Rating: 74.7#31 RW

ANDREW COPP
Rating: 72.5#60 LW

ADAM LOWRY
Rating: 69.2#149 C

MASON APPLETON
Rating: 69.5#123 RW

MATHIEU PERREAULT
Rating: 71.1#96 LW

NATE THOMPSON
Rating: 69.4#145 C

TREVOR LEWIS
Rating: 70.1#114 RW
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

JOSH MORRISSEY
Rating: 74.1#29 LD

TUCKER POOLMAN
Rating: 71.6#74 RD

DEREK FORBORT
Rating: 70.5#109 LD

NEAL PIONK
Rating: 75.3#20 RD

NATHAN BEAULIEU
Rating: 72.1#72 LD

DYLAN DEMELO
Rating: 71.8#69 RD
Calgary Flames: 
LWCRW

JOHNNY GAUDREAU
Rating: 76.0#19 LW

SEAN MONAHAN
Rating: 74.4#42 C

DOMINIK SIMON
Rating: 70.1#132 RW

MATTHEW TKACHUK
Rating: 78.0#9 LW

ELIAS LINDHOLM
Rating: 76.5#19 C

DILLON DUBE
Rating: 70.3#108 RW

JOSH LEIVO
Rating: 71.7#85 LW

MIKAEL BACKLUND
Rating: 75.5#30 C

ANDREW MANGIAPANE
Rating: 74.2#36 RW

MILAN LUCIC
Rating: 70.7#103 LW

SAM BENNETT
Rating: 69.6#127 C

JOAKIM NORDSTROM
Rating: 67.9#150 RW
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

MARK GIORDANO
Rating: 77.9#6 LD

RASMUS ANDERSSON
Rating: 73.5#36 RD

NOAH HANIFIN
Rating: 73.3#49 LD

CHRIS TANEV
Rating: 71.0#90 RD

JUUSO VALIMAKI
Rating: 72.6#6 LD

NIKITA NESTEROV

Where to watch/listen:

Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT and will be available on TSN 3 along with 680 CJOB.

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