The Winnipeg Jets look to continue their recent dominance when they take on the Montreal Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre.
The Jets (8-5-2) have collected points in their last eight games and currently sit third in the Central Division.
As for the Canadiens (10-4-1), they’ll look to build on a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild from Saturday, and should be well rested after having a couple days off between games.
With that, here are five things to keep in mind for tonight’s tilt:
The perfect mix
Winning can do incredible things for a hockey team.
The Jets took the ice Tuesday morning at the Bell Centre in high spirits. It was a perfect mix of fun and intensity as they prepared for tonight’s match.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the Jets look this loose, having this much fun and still look calm and composed.
“It’s been a while,” said Jets’ centre Bryan Little about the last time things were this good both on the ice and in the dressing room.
“This team seems a bit closer than teams I’ve been on before. We just all get along and I think we play better when it’s more loose in [the locker room] and on the ice," he said.
"Obviously it’s going to be a bit more like that when we’re winning — everyone’s attitude — but if we can keep this thing going and keep it loose in the dressing room and everyone talking, we’re going to do well.”
Will they have that same mood after tonight’s game?
Channeling the noise
The Bell Centre is one of the loudest and most intense arenas in the entire NHL, much like the atmosphere of the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
Having been a spectator in this rink before, I can attest that it’s a pretty intimidating place to play. But talking with the players, it’s excitement that seems to be the overwhelming feeling heading in the game.
“It’s a fun building to play in, a lot of intensity,” said defenceman Zach Bogosian. “Their fans are really in to it. It makes for a fun atmosphere so we just got to make sure we’re ready to weather that storm right away.”
The Jets have played well this year against opponents in other notoriously difficult arenas, shutting out both the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden and the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
It’s important to note, however, that the Jets are 1-4 against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre since the relocation to Winnipeg in 2011.
Strong start, stronger finishes
Like Bogosian said, it will be important to get the fans out of the game early with a strong start. Coach Paul Maurice echoed the same sentiment at his morning skate presser.
But it will be equally as important that Winnipeg finish strong. The third period hasn’t exactly been blockbusters for the Jets. They’ve scored just five goals, and allowed only four.
As for the Canadiens, well, they’ve been anything but boring in the third, scoring a whopping 17 markers while allowing an almost equally bad 15 against.
“We will see who that works well for,” Maurice said between laughs before focusing the concentration back on having a strong start.
"But for us, I think the first five minutes in this building is always, in Montreal, the first five minutes is important. You know in this building, when they get some action in the offensive zone, there’s going to be three or four minutes that you’re going to have to fight through to control because they’re going to get blocks of momentum and they do in every game.”
The Jets best period has been in the first, scoring 14 of their 28 goals this season. Montreal has only scored four times in the opening 20 minutes.
It’s a bit of a homecoming for Jets’ winger Mathieu Perreault, who grew up in Drummondville, Que., and played his junior hockey for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior League.
Though his father was mainly a supporter of the former Quebec Nordiques, Perreault admits playing in Montreal is always special.
“It’s always fun. I try to enjoy the most of it,” said Perreault. “I have my family coming, friends, so it’s always exciting to come to Montreal.
"Over my career I’ve had quite a bit of success. I’ve scored a couple goals against the Canadiens, so I always get pretty excited to play the Canadiens.”
Battle between the pipes
Ondrej Pavelec will look to continue his hot play in net. After a slow start to the year, he has bounced back nicely and now boasts an impressive 1.98 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.
“Our goalie has been great. Every time Pav gets in the net right now he’s got confidence and the whole team’s got confidence in front of him,” said Little.
On the other end of the ice will be Canadiens’ 'tender Carey Price, who is one of the NHL's best goalies. He’s been a part of Canada’s last two gold medals at the Olympic Games and will surely be a focus for the Jets in tonight’s game.
Price has looked human this season, however, posting a 2.78 goals-against average and a modest .912 save percentage. The Jets will hope to take advantage of that.
You don’t want to be the team he finds his game against.