The Winnipeg Jets (5-8-2) will be looking for their first win in more than a week as they welcome the Detroit Red Wings (9-4-2) to the MTS Centre Monday night.
The Jets, who currently sit last place in the Central Division, are riding a three-game losing streak. As for the Red Wings, a win against the Jets gives them their fourth straight victory.
Here are five things you should keep an eye on heading in to tonight’s date with Detroit:
New blood on the blue line
Help for the Jets’ ailing blue line has arrived. With Jacob Trouba, Mark Stuart and Paul Postma all out with injuries, Winnipeg acquired former L.A. Kings defenceman, Keaton Ellerby, off waivers Saturday.
The 24-year-old native of Calgary was drafted in the first round – 10th overall – by the Florida Panthers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He spent two years in Florida before joining the Kings nine games into last season.
Ellerby is yet to play in a game this year, but coach Claude Noel liked what he saw from his new defenseman at practice Sunday.
“He skates well, passes hard,” said Noel. “I like the way he defended today. I like the way he fought. He’s a veteran guy. He has over 150 games in the league so it’s not like he has to ease his way in there.”
Jets fans won’t have to wait long to see what they’ve got from their newest player as Ellerby is expected to be in the lineup tonight.
“It’s exciting,” said Ellerby. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for myself to step in here and try to help the Winnipeg Jets out.”
So what does the six-foot-five, 220-pounder offer the Jets?
“Big, physical, kind of stay-at-home D-man,” stated Ellerby when asked to describe his style of play. “I can skate well so I can jump in the play when possible but nothing too risky. Kill penalties, block shots, just bang and crash. I play kind of a hard nose, defensive style of game.”
He may just prove to be what the Jets need to fill the defensive void currently plaguing them or at least until some guys get healthy.
Pressure on Pav
Jets net minder Ondrej Pavelec publicly announced his displeasure surrounding his play following a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday afternoon.
Pavelec allowed four goals on just 14 shots before getting pulled from the net, just five minutes into the second period.
Pavelec will try to bounce back against a Detroit team that netted seven goals on the Jets in their last game, all of which came against the 26-year-old Czech.
But it’s not all bad news, Jets fans. In games since getting pulled, Pavelec is 6-2 and has allowed two or less goals in six of those games.
Back at the Helm
He’s a fan favourite in Detroit who grew up playing hockey in the small town of St. Andrews, Man. Red Wings forward Darren Helm returned to the lineup Saturday. He scored the game-winning goal in a 5-0 trampling of the Edmonton Oilers after being sidelined for more than 18 months with injuries to his back and groin.
Bad timing for the Jets as Helm is one of the team’s most reliable players, especially on the penalty kill. Noel made reference to the value of Helm’s return to Detroit and noted his speed is something the Jets will look to keep in check.
Helm is something the Jets wished they had; he’s a bottom-six forward worth his weight in gold and a great player, with a great story.
As mentioned, the Red Wings are currently riding a three game win streak where they’ve outscored their opponents 11-4. Leading the way are three veteran players in Pavel Datsyuk, 35, Henrik Zetterberg, 33, and Daniel Alfredsson, 40. The trio has combined for 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points and is a plus-17 on the year.
“They’re a team that still has some veteran guys that can finish and do some things,” said Noel. “They drive that team hard, and they’ve won in the past. They have a history of winning and how to play.”
Many felt the Red Wings would be unable to rebound after losing a number of key pieces heading in to last season, including the great, Nicklas Lidstrom. But with consistent play from their veteran core, and continued development from their younger players, the Red Wings are proving they have what it takes to remain one of the league’s top clubs.
Doing all the Wright things
With Jim Slater out of the lineup, keep an eye on Jets forward James Wright. Wright has started to show he’s ready to become the shutdown, defensive type of player Winnipeg needs him to be.
“Right now, I think I’m just trying to concentrate on playing well defensively and maybe winning some face offs, being accountable like that and hopefully helping my team that way,” said Wright.
Wright recently switched to centre from the wing, a transition he said is just part of being an all-around player.
“Everyone has to be able to play down low,” he said. “You never know if you’re going to be the first man back in our system.”
Wright has also been impressive on the dot, winning 63.6 per cent of his draws. But for him, as long as he’s playing, he’s happy.
“I enjoy playing; so centre, wing, whatever,” said Wright.
Prediction: 4-2 Red Wings
With the Jets trying to find a way back into the win column, it’s tough to think that win will come against a talented Detroit team. The Red Wings are too deep in all areas of the roster, especially up front, and with the Jets still banged up in the back end, a win is unlikely. This matchup has the right ingredients to be another Chicago-type game.