Manitoba·Blog

5 things to watch for as Jets return home to host Oilers

The Winnipeg Jets return home to welcome the Edmonton Oilers to MTS Centre Wednesday night.
Winnipeg Jets Patrice Cormier (28) and Edmonton Oilers Steven Pinizzotto (13) fight during first period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)

The Winnipeg Jets return home to welcome the Edmonton Oilers to MTS Centre Wednesday night.

The Jets (12-9-4) are coming off a successful three-game road trip, collecting five of a possible six points with wins over the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets, and most recently, an overtime loss to the Boston Bruins Friday.

As for the struggling Oilers (6-15-4), they’ll try to break out of their current 10-game losing streak, their most recent defeat coming at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes, 5-2, Monday night.

With that, here are five things to consider heading in to tonight’s game:

Down, but dangerous

On paper, the Jets and Oilers are two very different teams. The Jets have played some of their most consistent hockey of late while the Oilers have struggled mightily.

But don’t tell the Jets locker room that. For Winnipeg, the Oilers, a team desperate to get in the win column, are just as dangerous as the team at the top of the standings.

“Very dangerous,” said Jets’ defenceman Mark Stuart, noting desperation can be a key motivator for teams. “They’re not happy with how things are going and they’re going to do whatever it takes to turn it around.”

The Jets hope that turnaround won’t happen tonight. Since the relocation to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season, the Jets are 2-2 against the Oilers.

Powering up

For the better part of the season, the Jets power play has bordered on non-existent. But of late, the man advantage has been a driving force behind the Jets success.

Winnipeg is riding a three-game streak with at least one power play goal, totalling four goals on 12 trips to the PP during that stretch.

“Probably the biggest difference is you get a power play, on the bench they’re excited,” said coach Paul Maurice. “It doesn’t get real quiet on the bench (anymore) when we get a power play.”

Despite the recent success, the Jets remain near the bottom of the league, clicking at just over 12 per cent on the PP. 

Edmonton is in the middle of the pack when it comes to the penalty kill, but are a shade better while on the road killing off 82 per cent of their penalties in visitor’s arenas.

Fresh face

It looked like good news for the Jets as defenceman Tobias Enstrom returned to practice Tuesday after being sidelined with a lower body injury he suffered during a game against Detroit back on Nov. 20.
Ben Chiarot will make his season debut with the Jets Wednesday night after being called up from the St. John's IceCaps Tuesday. He'll play alongside Zach Bogosian when the Jets take on the Edmonton Oilers at MTS Centre. (Jeff Hamilton/CBC)

Enstrom played the next game but the injury worsened, forcing him to miss the Jets recent road trip.

That good news, however, took a turn for the worse later in the day as the Jets placed Enstrom on the injured reserved list and has since called up Ben Chiarot from the St. John’s IceCaps, the Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Grant Clitsome, who missed Tuesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, will also be out for tonight’s game, making room for Chiarot to make his season debut.

“Anytime you can get on the ice against NHL guys it’s an experience you have to take,” said Chiarot after the morning skate. “I’ve been itching and eager to get back here to show these guys that I can play and show everyone here that I can play.”

He’ll have ample opportunity tonight as Chiarot will line up alongside Bogosian on the Jets’ top pairing.

Back to Pavelec

Let the goalie debate continue.

After backup Michael Hutchinson played in two of the last three games for the Jets, a stint where he earned a win over Columbus and an overtime loss to Boston, Maurice has elected to go back to his No.1 guy, Ondrej Pavelec.

Maurice said earlier this week that when you have two hot goaltenders – Pavelec too has been solid this season – the key is to make sure they weren’t going longer than a week without game action.

It’s been seven days since Pavelec has played, a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres last week, making Maurice true to his word. It’s expected that Hutchinson will get the start on Friday against Colorado but that has yet to be confirmed. 

Pavelec is 8-8-2 this year with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

On the hot seat

There’s no such thing as a day off when it comes to the NHL rumour mill. And right now all the buzz is on the future of Oilers’ head coach Dallas Eakins.

Eakins is in his second season of a four-year contract with Edmonton, his first job as an NHL head coach. With the Oilers, Eakins is a dismal 35-59-13.

The Oilers have a record of 6-15-4 this season, and many believe a loss to the Jets could mean an early exit for Eakins. Maurice, now in his 17th season as an NHL coach, knows all too well of the situation Eakins is in. He shared what the mindset of a coach who knows he’s on the hot seat is:

“It’s probably a lot simpler than you think,” started Maurice. “There’s really nothing else that happens in your life, it’s all hockey. Everybody handles it differently.”

Projected lines tonight:

Winnipeg:

  • Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
  • Evander Kane – Mathieu Perreault – Dustin Byfuglien
  • Adam Lowry – Mark Scheifele – Michael Frolik
  • Chris Thorburn – Jim Slater – Matt Halischuk
  • Ben ChiarotZach Bogosian
  • Mark Stuart – Jacob Trouba
  • Adam Pardy – Paul Postma
  • Ondrej Pavelec
  • Michael Hutchinson

Edmonton:

  • Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent Hopkins – Tyler Pitlick
  • Nail Yakupov – Leon Draisaitl– Jordan Eberle
  • David Perron – Boyd Gordon – Teddy Purcell
  • Luke Gazdic – Mark Arcobello– Steve Pinizzotto
  • Andrew Ference – Justin Schultz
  • Oscar Klefbom – Jeff Petry
  • Nikita Nikitin – Mark Fayne
  • Ben Scrivens
  • Viktor Fasth

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

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