5 things to watch for heading in to Sunday’s date with Ducks

The Winnipeg Jets (2-0-0) will look to remain perfect on the year as they welcome the Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0) to the MTS Centre Sunday night.

The Winnipeg Jets (2-0-0) will look to remain perfect on the year as they welcome the Anaheim Ducks (1-1-0) to the MTS Centre Sunday night.

It’s the first time these two teams have met in more than a year and half, with only one game against each other since the Jets moved from Atlanta in 2011.

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

Teemu’s return

He’s one of Winnipeg’s biggest sports legends and he makes his return to the River City for quite possibly his last time.

Teemu Selanne, who won the hearts of every local hockey fan in his four seasons as a Winnipeg Jet, makes his return as an Anaheim Duck to take on the Jets Sunday night at the MTS Centre.

It’s the second time Selanne has come to Winnipeg since the Jets relocation from Atlanta. In his first visit, dating back to December 17, 2011, he had two assists in a 5-3 Ducks loss but was welcomed with open arms, receiving a number of thunderous cheers including a standing ovation.

Jets head coach Claude Noel said after practice Saturday that he admires what the 43-year old native of Finland has done for the league and for the city of Winnipeg but he hopes the result will be the same as that night two seasons ago.

“It’s always been a pleasure to watch him play but even to continue to play at this level like he does is something else,” said Noel. “I just hope we win the game as we marvel.”

Push for three

Speaking of wins, the Jets have opened the season with two straight victories. It’s only the third time in Thrashers/Jets franchise history and the first in three seasons in Winnipeg.

The last time came in the 2009-2010 season, with the Thrashers eventually going on to finish second in the southeast division but 10th in the Eastern Conference, missing out on the playoffs by five points.  

If the Jets are able to knock off the Ducks Sunday, it will be the first time in their team’s 15-year history to start a season with three wins.  

Scheduling success

For the second consecutive game the Jets will be facing an opponent that will have played their second game in less than 24 hours. Friday night the Jets were able to capitalize on an L.A. Kings team who had played the night before, beating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shootout.

The Ducks are in the exact same position, coming off a 4-3 overtime win Saturday night and will travel to Winnipeg today for their second game in less than 24 hours.

The Jets will have nine games this year where their opponent will have played a game the night before. They took advantage of the opportunity against L.A. Friday, will the same be said tonight?

Leading by example

After two games, Evander Kane leads the Jets in shots (11) and hits (9). He’s also added a goal and two assists during that time.

From day one of training camp he has preached the importance of using the body and his compete so far this year has backed up his words.

Watch for No. 9 to have another big game as he continues to get more comfortable with linemates Devin Setoguchi and Mark Scheifele.  

Battle of the benches

It’s been a lopsided battle between Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau and Jets benchboss Claude Noel during their careers.

Noel is 2-0-1 in three games against Boudreau, outscoring the Duck’s head coach 12-8 during those games.

Boudreau was behind the bench for the Washington Capitals for two of those games, the other a 5-3 Jets win over his current team.  

These two coaches have had a fairly different start to this year’s campaign. Noel for the most part has been calm and content, a byproduct of starting the year with two wins.

Boudreau on the other hand has been emotionally unstable, particularly in a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche that ended with a heated altercation with Avs coach, Patrick Roy.

The two exchanged unsavoury words before Roy proceeded to physically detach the plexiglass separating the two benches.

Noel was quick to dismiss any suggestion as to whether that could happen Sunday night.

“Yeah I won’t be too worried about that right now,” he said with a smirk. “I got other things to focus on.”

Prediction: 4-2 Jets

The Jets are starting to prove they belong in a physical and speedy Western Conference. Depth scoring and strong defensive play has a Winnipeg team tied for tops in their division after two consecutive wins to start the year.

The Ducks finished second place in the West last season but have shown beatable so far this year. They’ll look to get back above .500 but it won’t be in front of a packed house at the MTS Centre Sunday.

With Anaheim playing their second game in as many nights, the Jets have the edge in the game. A strong effort from Ondrej Pavelec and a breakout game from the Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler line could be the recipe for a win.

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.