5 things to watch for in Jets' dance with Dallas
The Winnipeg Jets (2-2-0) welcome the Dallas Stars (1-1-0) to the MTS Centre Friday night in their first game as Central Division rivals.
The Jets will look to bounce back from two consecutive losses after starting the season 2-0 while the Dallas Stars hope to build on their 2-1 victory over Washington last Saturday.
Here are five things to watch for heading in to Friday’s dance with Dallas:
It may be a road game for the Dallas Stars Friday but for two of their players, it's a trip back home.
Stars' forwards Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt both grew up playing hockey in Winnipeg before their path to the NHL led them to other cities.
Eakin, 22, centres Dallas’s second line.
In two games he has one assist and is an even plus-minus.
Garbutt, 28, has five shots and 15 penalty minutes in the same amount of games.
It’s a particularly big year for Eakin as his entry-level contract is due to expire by the end of this season.
Big numbers from the speedy centreman could mean a substantial raise in salary.
Eakin's fresh off his first full season in the NHL. In 48 games with the Stars he finished with seven goals, chipped in 17 assists and was a plus-1.
During the offseason the Jets signed Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Zach Bogosian to long term deals and added Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi for depth up front.
Rookies Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele are now regulars with the club.
These moves by Jets brass follow a particular blueprint and a culture within the organization.
Often described by coaches and management as “a process”, the Jets are in the midst of forming their identity within the league.
Much is the same for the Dallas Stars.
Under a new coach in Lindy Ruff, a new captain in Jamie Benn and a new brand – have you seen their new jerseys? - the Stars have set out to make this year the beginning of something special.
Dallas is driven to snap a five-year hiatus from the playoffs while the Jets are looking for their first post-season berth in three seasons since moving to Winnipeg.
Expect a rough game with plenty of bite. Both of these teams have something to prove.
A Ruff record
Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff hasn’t exactly had the best luck against Claude Noel and the Jets throughout his career.
Prior to becoming the Stars’ newest bench boss this year, Ruff spent the better part of 15 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
In five career games against the Jets 2.0, Ruff has a record of 1-3-1.
During that span the Jets outscored his Sabres 16-9, earning nine of a possible 10 points.
The last time Ruff beat the Jets was November 8, 2011, narrowly edging out Winnipeg 6-5 in overtime.
To make matters worse, the Jets were the last team Ruff coached against as a member of the Sabres coaching staff. He was canned after a 2-1 loss to the Jets February 19, marking the end of his tenure in Buffalo.
A budding star
Dallas forward Alex Chaisson is starting to make a name for himself in the National Hockey League.
The 23-year-old native of Montreal joined the Stars at the end of last season after three years with Boston University. In seven games with Dallas, he potted six goals and added an assist, proving to management he deserves a full-time spot.
And he doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
In two games this year, Chaisson has scored two goals playing on the team’s second line.
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, the 2009 second-round draft pick is garnering more attention around the league as he continues to develop his offensive gifts.
This could spell trouble for Winnipeg.
The Jets have shown to be vulnerable in front of Pavelec this year and will want to keep an eye on No. 12.
He’s a big body with smooth hands and will only need one missed assignment to make the Jets pay.
Two of the first three games for the Jets this year have been against opponents on the closing end of back-to-back games.
The Jets now face the same challenge having lost to Minnesota less than 24 hours ago.
The Jets played back-to-back games seven times last season, defeating their opponent only three times in the second half of those matches.
The Stars kick off their first game of back-to-back matches against the Jets before traveling to Minnesota for a game Saturday night.
The Stars went 5-3-1 in the first game of back-to-backs last year.
Prediction: 4-3 Dallas
The Jets play their second game in a span 24 hours following a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, where they were only able to generate 15 shots.
Dallas is well rested, having only played two games in the past 13 days.
Ondrej Pavelec has been the best player for the Jets through four games but is due for a game off. Jets head coach Claude Noel wouldn’t say whether that will be Friday or Sunday but you’d have to think it’s coming soon.
Dallas doesn’t exactly scare you with their depth and even with back-to-back games for the Jets it could go either way.
Expect the Jets to keep it close, but a well-rested Dallas team should prevail.