To those convinced of fate — or something like it — the outcome was never in doubt. Shot. Goal. Win.
Justin Williams’ return couldn’t have come at a better time.
It was evident from the start of the game that Williams’ line was the best the Canes had to offer. Now, the choice is whether to split them up or not.
Carolina’s offense has trailed off noticeably, even before Hamilton’s injury. The last time the team scored three or more goals was January 10th against the Coyotes.
Simply put, the top players need to score. Sebastian Aho has one goal in his last nine games. Ryan Dzingel has one goal and one assist through the nine games played in January. Erik Haula, who scored seven goals in October alone, has not scored this month.
Each of those three players takes the ice on power plays. With Williams back in the fold, playing time — power play or otherwise — is once again at a premium. Expect Rod Brind’Amour to quickly sit down players, or entire lines, that aren’t meeting his expectations.
In net, James Reimer (11-6-1, .921 SV%, 2.47 GAA) should get the nod. Reimer is putting together another excellent run of goaltending. He’s won three of his last four starts (the only loss coming in a 2-1 OT defeat to the Anaheim Ducks). Over this stretch, he boasts a .944 SV% and 1.75 GAA.
The Canes’ projected lineup:
Warren Foegele - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Nino Niederreiter
Ryan Dzingel - Lucas Wallmark - Martin Necas
Brock McGinn - Jordan Martinook - Justin Williams
Jaccob Slavin - Joel Edmundson
Jake Gardiner - Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Injuries and Scratches: Dougie Hamilton (leg), Erik Haula (healthy)
The Winnipeg Jets (25-20-4, 54pts) enter tonight’s game having lost four of their last five. They’ve now dropped to fourth in the Central Division — and three points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference — on the back of a 3-5-1 record in January.
The Jets are led by All-Star center Mark Scheifele (23g, 30a), winger Kyle Connor (24g, 23a), and winger Patrik Laine (16g, 28a).
In goal, All-Star Connor Hellebuyck (21-15-4, .919 SV%, 2.71 GAA) will get the start. Hellebuyck has struggled of late, having lost his last two starts and giving up nine goals in the process. In the teams’ only prior meeting this season, he gave up five goals before being relieved by Laurent Brossoit on December 17th (Canes won 6-3).
The Jets’ projected lineup:
Kyle Connor - Blake Wheeler - Patrik Laine
Nikolaj Ehlers - Mark Scheifele - Jack Roslovic
Mathieu Perreault - Andrew Copp - Mason Appleton
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Shore - Jansen Harkins
Josh Morrissey - Sami Niku
Dmitry Kulikov - Neal Pionk
Anthony Bitetto - Luca Sbisa
Injuries and Scratches: Dustin Byfuglien (ankle), Mark Letestu (myocarditis), Bryan Little (head), Nathan Beaulieu (lower-body), Tucker Poolman (lower-body), Carl Dahlstrom (hand), Adam Lowry (upper-body)