By: Adam Wazny | Friday, March 23
Alright, forget any other mention of a game being the Jets "most important" game of the year. Friday night in Washington is it. A regulation-time Winnipeg win over the Capitals puts them within three points of Washington for the final playoff spot in the East and the Jets would have a game in hand (tomorrow @ Nashville). A regulation-time loss for Winnipeg would leave them seven back with just eight games to go. Factor in the possibility of a Carolina win over Columbus and the Jets could slip to 11th if things don't go their way - I think we can agree there hasn't been a more important night for the team's playoff hopes since the NHL's return to Manitoba.
The Jets have been in Washington since losing in Pittsburgh Tuesday and they're tired of waiting for their shot at the Caps. jets Coach Claude Noel wrapped up that impatience and the importance the night saying on Jets TV: "the wait is long and tedious ... put your game out there and let's get going."
While they waited for Friday's game, the Jets saw the mountain get a little steeper as the Caps gained a point in a shootout loss in Philly Thursday night. But before you get too excited about Friday's game being the second of a back-to-back games for the Caps, Washington is much better in those situations at 5-5-and-1 than you've come to expect from Winnipeg this season.
Ondrej Pavelec makes a 10th straight start in goal and will be looking to put aside the frustration of Tuesday in Pittsburgh against a Caps' team featuring Alex Ovechkin with four goals in his last three games (while the Jets have scored 3.53/game in their last 19, they've allowed 3.21/game). Braden Holtby has made two straight starts in goal for Washington with Michal Neuvirth in-reserve. Tomas Vokoun, a star in last week's loss to the Jets, is out but working back to fitness from a groin injury.
The Jets have hung in the playoff race thanks to a stellar home record and their play within the Southeast Division. Sunday's loss to Carolina was just their sixth in regulation time in 19 games against the division, the fewest regulation losses in the Southeast. The problem for them is, when you add up their body of work it's clear one more of those and it's virtually the end of their playoff push.
Friday's notable games: JETS at WAS...BUFF at NYR...CAR at CBJ...EDM at FLA
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE
3. FLORIDA (1. Southeast Division)
3/13 TORONTO...Panthers win 5-2
3/15 BOS ...Panthers win 6-2
3/17 BUFF ...Panthers win 3-2(SO)
3/20 @PHIL ...Panthers win 2-1
3/21 @CAR ...Panthers lost 3-1 ...85PTS (9GR)
3/16 @WPG ...Caps lose 3-2
3/18 @CHI ...Caps lose 5-2
3/19 @DET ...Caps win 5-3
3/22 @PHIL ...Caps lose 2-1(SO)...81PTS(8GR)
3/14 AVS ...Sabres lose 5-4 (SO)
3/17 @FLA ...Sabres lose 3-2(SO)
3/19 @TB ...Sabres win 7-3
3/21 MTL ...Sabres win 3-0 ...80PTS (8GR)
3/16 WAS...Jets win 3-2
3/18 CAR ...Jets lose 4-3
3/20 @PITT ...Jets lose 8-4... 76PTS (9GR)