The Winnipeg Jets (2-3-0) will look to avoid their fourth consecutive loss when they welcome the New Jersey Devils (0-2-3) to the MTS Centre Sunday night.
Here are five things you’ll want to watch for heading in tonight’s game:
Made in Manitoba
Jets fans got to experience some homegrown talent against Dallas Friday night as Stars forwards and former Winnipeggers, Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt, helped lead their team to a convincing 4-1 victory at the MTS Centre.
Sunday they’ll welcome two more, as Devils’ captain and Brandon native, Bryce Salvador, along with forward, Travis Zajac, make a pit-stop in Winnipeg as integral parts of a New Jersey team in search of their first win.
Salvador, 37, is entering his 12th NHL season, his second as team captain. In five games this year, Salvador has one assist, three shots and is a minus-1.
Zajac, 28, is in the first year of his eight-year, $46-million dollar contract he inked in the offseason. The Winnipeg product has had somewhat of a disappointing start to the 2013-2014 campaign, recording only two assists in five games.
Both Salvador and Zajac would like nothing better than to share their team’s first win with family and friends.
Question is: will the Jets be able to spoil the party?
Between the pipes
The Jets were on the outside looking in on the goalie controversy in Vancouver last season. The battle between Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider for the No. 1 spot in net garnered a lot of attention from media throughout the 2013 lockout-shortened season.
Unable to deal Luongo, the Canucks were forced to play their hand, opting to trade away Schneider to New Jersey in a surprise deal on opening day of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Schneider now finds himself in a similar situation with his new team, splitting time with future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur. Schneider has been given the start Sunday night against Winnipeg.
The Jets don’t have much of a scouting report on the 27-year-old, as they’ve only faced him once - a 3-2 loss to Vancouver on March 8, 2012- since moving from Atlanta.
The Jets may want to refer to assistant general manager, Craig Heisinger, who was at the controls of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League during Schneider’s three seasons (2007-2010) in Winnipeg.
River city shuffle
After allowing four goals in a period and a half of hockey Friday night, Jets head coach Claude Noel began to shuffle his forward lines in a desperate attempt to create some offence for his club.
Captain Andrew Ladd dropped to the second line alongside rookie Mark Scheifele and Devin Setoguchi, while Evander Kane took a turn with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler on the top line.
Saturday’s practice offered little clarity as to whether those changes would last in to Sunday’s match with New Jersey, as drills featured a number of different line combinations.
“We’d like to roll four lines if we got four lines going,” said Noel. “Sometimes you got one or two guys not going. Sometimes you got a whole line not going. I’ve been watching it for a while.”
Chances are Noel will stick with his original lineup but don’t be surprised if another slow start sparks yet another shakeup up front.
Rolling on the man advantage
If there’s been one thing consistent with the Jets over the past five games, it’s their ability to score on the man advantage.
Winnipeg has scored a power play goal in every game so far this year. The early success has been a welcomed surprise for Jets brass. The Jets ranked dead last in power play efficiency last season.
This year, the Jets are 5-of-24 (20.8%)on the man advantage, good enough for 15th in the league. Five different Jets have accounted for the goals, including Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, Devin Setoguchi, and Blake Wheeler.
The team that wins the special teams battle often wins the game. Continued success on the power play is vital for Winnipeg to regaining some confidence in the lockeroom and results on the scoreboard.
Hitting the mark
Jets forward Olli Jokinen scored his 300th career goal when he netted his first of the year in a 5-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings on October 6.
The 15-year NHL veteran is now on the brink of reaching two more career milestones. He needs just one point to reach career number 700 and an assist to reach 400 career helpers.
When asked how it felt to reach three hundred career goals, Jokinen joked that it was good to get it out of the way early in the season, rather than having to wait till game 40.
Fans will be hoping that next mark will be game 6 on Sunday. No joke.
Prediction: 4-3 Jets
Winnipeg is on the brink of desperation having dropped their last three games and will be look to rebound against another team dangerously close to pushing the panic button.
The Devils have the edge in net but a stingy offence will prove the difference in this game. The Jets snap their losing streak in a close game - the Devils have lost four of five games in a shootout or by a one-goal margin - and begin to right their ship with a win at home.