Paul Maurice’s Winnipeg Jets visit PNC Arena today for their only time this season. In a rematch of the season opener for both teams, the Carolina Hurricanes will close their five-game homestand looking to extend their winning streak to four games and climb above NHL .500 for the first time this year. The Jets head to Raleigh finishing the second game of a back-to-back, as they fell to the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.
The biggest surprise and source of excitement for Jets fans thus far has been the astonishing start for rookie Patrik Laine. He is tied for the NHL-lead in goals with 12, and has proven to be worthy of the pre-draft hype that was heaped upon him.
Despite serious injury issues, which have removed veterans Bryan Little, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers, Shawn Matthias and Mathieu Perreault from the lineup, the Jets have been able to keep their heads above water with a 9-9-2 start through 20 games. Following an extended preseason hold-out, which bled into the regular season, defensive standout Jacob Trouba has returned the Jets to bolster their defense in the absence of Myers.
With offensive talent such as Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, as well as Dustin Byfuglien on the blue line, the Jets can still put the puck in the net despite their injuries. They are currently sixth in the NHL in goals scored with 57.
As has been the issue for as long as they've been in Winnipeg (and even before that in Atlanta), the Jets issues reside on the defensive end of the ice. They have given up 59 goals, good for 25th in the NHL, and they continue to face high volumes of shots as they have allowed the fifth most so far this season.
The Jets replaced long-time netminder Ondrej Pavlec with the tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. Hellebuyck has seen slightly more of the playing time as he has started 12 of the 20 games thus far, and he has rewarded coach Paul Maurice by posting a decent .910 save percentage with 2.59 goals allowed per game.
This improvement, along with the emergence of Laine, may be why the Jets have been able to not get buried early in this season with the mountain of injuries they have faced.
As any Canes fan can tell you, expect to hear one of the loudest boos of the season as head coach Paul Maurice is introduced for the Jets tonight. His history in Raleigh has been well-chronicled, as his two coaching stints included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final (2002) and the Eastern Conference Final (2009), but also included a number of disappointing seasons. Expect to see a Jets team that is a bit conservative, especially considering it is the second night of a back-to-back, as they try to save their legs. The Hurricanes would like to use their speed and push the pace to see if the Jets can keep up. Which team controls the pace should be a big factor in how this game unfolds.
What to Watch For
- The Jets are completing their fourth back-to-back of the season already. Compare that to the Hurricanes who played just one back-to-back, and the energy advantage should be squarely in the Canes favor.
- The Jets possess a slightly below average Special Teams unit, as they rank 19th in both the Penalty Kill and on the Power Play. If the Canes are given a chance on the Power Play, they must take advantage.
- Expect to see Connor Hellebuyck in net. He allowed four goals on 27 shots in the season opening 5-4 OT win against the Canes.