Returning from a six-game road trip that ended with an ugly 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens this past Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets will be back on MTS Centre ice tonight where they will take on the surging Toronto Maple Leafs.
A home game could not have come at a better time for the Jets who looked tired and utterly lifeless in the final two games of the road trip against Florida and Montreal.
As has been well-documented, the Jets biggest problem of late has been their inability to do the one thing that is the most important factor in determining the outcome of a hockey game; score goals. During the six game stretch on the road, Winnipeg was only able to muster five goals and have not scored more than two goals in a game since a 4-3 shootout loss to Florida on January 21.
While the Jets have been falling back in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Leafs are rising in the standings.
Winners of three straight, and five of their last six, Toronto comes in to tonight’s game the exact opposite of their opponents tonight. The Leafs have had little trouble finding the back of the net and are doing so with regularity in their past five games. The team has been sparked by not only the play of their leading scorers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, but more importantly perhaps, the return to form by Clarke MacArthur and the often dominating play of center Mikhail Grabovski.
Winnipeg will be hoping to catch the Leafs on an off night as the team travelled from Toronto following their win over the Edmonton Oilers last night, but they certainly can’t expect Toronto to just roll over for them tonight. The Jets will have to find a way to score some goals and pick up a vitally important two points before they again head out on the road for two tough games against Pittsburgh and Washington later this week.
They will however be getting a much needed re-inforcement in time for tonight’s showdown. Evander Kane, the budding young star and the team’s leading goal-scorer is expected to return after missing the past seven games with a concussion. It goes without saying that his return will be a huge boost to an offense that has been unable to generate anything in the last few games.
With Winnipeg sitting eight points back of the seventh-place Leafs, tonight’s game is without question one of the biggest of the year to date.
A win would help keep the players’ spirits alive for a playoff push. A loss could spell the end of that dream and turn the Jets into sellers at the approaching trade deadline.