5 things to watch for as Jets host the Hurricanes
The Winnipeg Jets have hit desperation mode as they look to snap a four-game losing skid just five tilts into the season.
They’ll get that chance Tuesday night when they welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the MTS Centre for game three of a five-game home stand.
The Hurricanes, too, have had their share of struggles to start the year. In four games, Carolina has yet to register a win, posting a record of 0-2-2. Winnipeg is the first of a four-game road trip through Western Canada for the Hurricanes.
With that, here are five things you should know about Tuesday’s game:
“F” For Frustration
It was evident Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice was still reeling from a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames Sunday night when he addressed the media Monday. After a series of questions surrounding the team’s accountability and leadership, Maurice made it clear that his team has no lingering internal issues.
“It’s not the player’s job to tell “you” [media] about it,” said Maurice on the issue of accountability. “They don’t have to come out here and open this book up to you and tell you everything that goes on in the room.”
“I can make you cry in that f---ing room,” added Maurice.
Usually calm and calculated with his answers, it was a rare slip up for Maurice. But it does show the level of frustration building in the early stages of the Jets season.
A win could go a long way for this team right now in battling that current mood.
Just in case there wasn’t enough motivation heading in to this one for Maurice and company, a group of familiar faces should provide an extra boost in the incentive department.
Maurice spent his first eight seasons as a head coach with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, a stint that began in 1996. After being fired 30 games in to the 2003 season, Maurice returned once again to coach the Hurricanes for parts of four seasons starting in 2008 before being fired once again in 2011.
Canes’ D-man Ron Hainsey will also make his return to Winnipeg. Hainsey played two seasons for the Jets – five if you count his time in Atlanta – before signing a deal with Carolina to start the 2013-14 season.
Though many fans remember him for his defensive struggles and role representing the NHL player’s association during the lockout in 2012, many in the Jets’ room look forward to seeing an old friend.
“It’s always good to see Ronny,” said Jets’ defenceman Zach Bogosian, who broke into the league as a teammate of Hainsey's in Atlanta. “He’s been good to me over my career. He broke me into the league and it’s always fun to see a familiar face.”
Let’s hope come puck drop that friendships are put aside.
'Canes on the mend
If you thought the Jets had back luck this season, you may want to hear the current woes in Carolina.
Beaten and bruised, the Hurricanes have battled with injuries all season.
Brothers Eric and Jordan Staal, arguably the team’s two best players, are out. They do, however, get a boost in the return of skilled forward, Jeff Skinner, who suffered a concussion earlier in the season. Defenceman Andrej Sekera will also be in the lineup after a scary crash in to the boards sidelined him for a game.
Even with the return of Skinner and Sekera, the Hurricanes remain a fragile team and one the Jets need to beat.
Jets’ defenceman Grant Clitsome will make his first regular season start for the Jets tonight. Clitsome has been healthy all year following back surgery in the offseason, but has sat out of the lineup for the first five games.
When Maurice was asked early last week what Clitsome needed to do in order to get in to the line up, his response was firm, noting what he’d seen from him in the preseason hadn’t warranted him a spot in the team’s top six defencemen.
But with the Jets hard-pressed to score these days, Clitsome does add some offensive punch to the blue line. He’s penned in to play beside another offensively minded D-man in Paul Postma.
“Maybe I bring a little bit of fresh air and maybe I can help lighten things up a little bit,” said Clitsome, following Tuesday’s pre-game skate. “I’m just trying to help the team as much as I can so I’m just going to come in and play simple and be strong back there.”
The only other change to the Jets’ lineup tonight will be the injection of Matt Halischuk. He’ll replace Anthony Peluso on the team’s fourth line with Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn.
There’s been a lot of talk lately around the play of Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. A former player for the Hurricanes – he won a Stanley Cup with them in 2006 – Ladd has just one point and is a minus-5 to start the year.
The effort has been there most nights, and his leadership on this team continues to progress, but if he’s going to log top line minutes the production part of his game needs to be improved.
“Everybody battles with confidence issues,” said Maurice. “It’s part of the game. You've got to get to those guys and talk about where they’re good and try to get them back to that focus, that foundation of their game.”
A matchup with the Hurricanes may be the recipe for doing just that. Ladd has five goals and five assists for 10 points and is a plus-2 in 12 games against the 'Canes as a member of the Jets.