5 things to watch ahead of Jets-Wild matchup

The Winnipeg Jets hit the road to take on the Minnesota Wild Thursday night at Excel Energy Centre in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis readies for invasion of Jets fans

Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Toby Enstrom celebrate Little's goal against Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding during first period pre-season NHL action in Winnipeg on September 19. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The Winnipeg Jets (2-1-0) hit the road to take on the Minnesota Wild (0-1-2) Thursday night at Excel Energy Centre in Minneapolis.

The Jets are looking to bounce back from a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Sunday while the Wild are still looking to snatch up their first win of the season.

Here are five things to watch for heading in to the game:

Wild, wild, west

An NHL realignment over the summer moved the Jets from the southeast division in the Eastern Conference to the newly designed Central Division in the West.

The Jets now find themselves with an easier flight schedule but have inherited a new batch of divisional foes. Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis and Minnesota round out the Central division.

The Jets will play 24 games of out the 82-game season against divisional opponents, with each match weighing heavily on their postseason ambitions.

With the new realignment, three teams from each division are promised a spot in the post-season with the remaining two spots from each Conference going to the next best records.

The Jets understand their best chance at making the playoffs is to claim one of those three positions within their division. Stealing a win on the road against one of those teams will go a long way to making that happen.

Seto's return

In the last two seasons with the Minnesota Wild, Devin Setoguchi racked up 32 goals and chipped in 31 assists for 63 points and was a minus-12.

Now, Setoguchi returns to his old team as a Winnipeg Jet, eager to show his former club the mistake they made by dealing him away this summer.

"It's going to be a little weird going back and playing against some old friends but it's strictly business," said Setoguchi about his return. "We need to go in there and try to win a hockey game."

Setoguchi has met the expectations from Jets brass so far this season. Brought in to be an offensive threat on the second line, the 26-year-old native of Alberta has two goals, three points and is a plus-2 in three games this year.

Battle of the border

If you're not a Jets season ticket holder then chances are your opportunities to go to games are slim. Therefore, like thousands of other Manitobans, you mark these games on your calendar every month.

Thousands of Jets fans are expected to make the trip down to Minneapolis this weekend, creating what should be the beginning of a budding rivalry.

"When I played [in Minnesota], there was about half Winnipeg fans," commented Setoguchi. "So it's always fun when you can get in a rivalry and makes the game more intense."

The Jets play Minnesota five times this year, the most of any team this season. If you're planning on making a trip down south, the Jets play in Minnesota for the first two games - the next game coming November 17 - before wrapping up the final three games in the season series at the MTS Centre.

Fan etiquette... 

Speaking of making the trip south, it's no longer a well-kept secret among Jets faithful. The word is out about Winnipeg's invasion of the Excel Energy Center each time their hometown visits Minnesota. 

In an attempt to counter a large Winnipeg presence, one Minnesota blogger compiled a list of instructions to prepare its own fans for what's to come.

From goalie chants to jersey jabs, this particular blogger has made it his mission to put an end to any advantage Winnipeg fans may offer.

His chances of that happening? About as good as the 1-3 Vikings winning the Super Bowl this year. Ouch.

Into the Wild?

He has yet to suit up for a regular season game for the Jets since being acquired from Nashville over the summer, but for winger Matt Halischuk, Thursday could be the night.

"That stuff is kind of out of your hands," said Halischuk when asked about getting in to the lineup. "I just got to stay ready to go and stay in shape."

Battling with numbers on the bottom two forward lines, Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel would only hint at the possibility of getting the gritty Halischuk in to Thursday night's game against the Wild.

"He might be in," said Noel. "So let's just wait and see before you start writing articles about stuff."

Sorry Claude.

Prediction: 3-2 Jets

The Wild have yet to earn their first win of the season but have still managed to gain two points in an overtime and shootout losses.

They've proven they can keep games close but that has yet to translate in to a victory and it doesn't appear that will come Thursday night.

Still fresh in the Jets psyche is a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Sunday as a result of two major break downs in the game. They'll want to right that ship and with a couple days practice under their belt, should be able to squeeze out a win.


Jeff Hamilton

Winnipeg Jets

Jeff Hamilton is an award-winning journalist born and raised in Winnipeg. Jeff is a graduate of the Carleton University journalism program and has worked for CBC in Ottawa and Manitoba. This will be his second year covering his hometown team. Jeff is passionate about hockey, playing and has studied the game his entire life.