Coming off a 3-2 loss to the third-worst team in the league, the Winnipeg Jets hope to put their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the past as they face the New Jersey Devils Sunday night (Feb. 19). The team is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and is undoubtedly having a fantastic season.
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Many thought the Jets outplayed their recent opponent, the scoresheet just didn’t show it. Sunday night, all eyes will be on the Jets’ power play and fans will be crossing their fingers that they hold off on taking too many penalties. Let’s dive into what to expect tonight as the Jets meet the Devils for the first time this season.
Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines
Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Saku Maenalanen
Cole Perfetti – Mark Scheifele – Mason Appleton
Nikolaj Ehlers – Adam Lowry – Blake Wheeler
Morgan Barron – Kevin Stenlund – Karson Kuhlman
Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Nate Schmidt – Dylan Samberg
Connor Hellebuyck (Game-time decision)
New Jersey Devils Projected Lines
Tomas Tatar – Nico Hischier – Dawson Mercer
Yegor Sharangovich – Jack Hughes – Jesper Bratt
Ondrej Palat – Erik Haula – Fabian Zetterlund
Miles Wood – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves – Damon Severson
Kevin Bahl – John Marino
Jets’ Penalties and Missed Power Play Opportunities Cost Them Against Blue Jackets
On Thursday (Feb. 16), the Columbus Blue Jackets won 3-1 over the Jets and snapped the team’s three-game winning streak in the first of the Jets’ four-game road trip. The Jets had seven power play opportunities, but were only able to capitalize on one, despite the Blue Jackets sitting in the lowest spot in the NHL standings at the time. And of course, why not rub some salt on the wound, Patrik Laine scored in this one to counteract the one goal Kyle Connor did achieve for the Jets. While the game was separated by two goals, it ultimately was a matchup that the Jets should have won.
Coach Rick Bowness placed the blame on the team’s inability to capitalize on power play opportunities and taking too many penalties. Bowness said, “When you get that many power plays, you’ve got to score. Regardless of the opponent, that’s on us to make sure that we score on those opportunities” (from ‘Jets winning streak halted by last-place Blue Jackets,’ Winnipeg Sun, Feb. 16, 2023).
When touching on the penalties Bowness said, “It’s unnecessary penalties at the wrong time that really hurt us. So when you get some things going and you’re playing really well, the last thing you want to do is take back-to-back penalties and get their (top) guys out there. We’ll address that.”
The Jets had 12 shots in the first period, while the Blue Jackets had two. It’s clear the Jets do struggle more on the road than at home, with a 14-12-1 away record and a 20-8-0 home record. It’s normal for teams to earn an unexpected loss here and there – they just can’t make it a habit.
New Jersey Devils Having A Productive Season
While the Jets are having a great season, the Devils are also having quite the stretch of success. The team is set to make the playoffs with 77 points in 55 games, and a 36-14-5 record this season. The last time the Devils made the playoffs was in 2018 when they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round and were defeated 4-1 in the series.
The Devils have tied a franchise record this season with 13 consecutive wins in November. They also hold the NHL’s best road record at 21-4-3, becoming the fastest team in NHL history to reach 20 wins in a season. After beating the Blue Jackets on Tuesday (Feb. 14), they hit the 20-win mark in only 26 games. Ranking within the bottom five teams in the league in three of the past four seasons, the Devils have finally proved they are in it for the long haul.
The Devils have a 15-10-2 record at home and will be returning to familiar territory as they enter the Prudential Center tonight. Jack Hughes, one of their key players, missed four games with an upper-body injury, but that hasn’t stopped the team from winning half of those matchups.
The 21-year-old made his return to the roster last night (Feb. 18), tallying two assists in a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite missing a couple games, the centreman still leads the Devils in goals (35), points (69) and shots (232). He is also 10th in the league in points and fourth in goals.
Devils’ head coach Lindy Ruff discussed filling the gap on the roster saying, “… every team has to deal with key injuries, key injuries to key players, and other players have to step in and have the ability to provide what Jack was bringing.”
Returning home from their four-game road stint, the Devils will have the fans on their side tonight as they face the Jets in their home arena.
Players to Watch
The Jets’ steady goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has missed the last two games due to illness, but could possibly make his return tonight. His last appearance was on Feb. 11 against the Chicago Blackhawks where he made 31 saves to guide his team to a 4-1 win. He is a game-time decision, but with a .924 save percentage (SV%) and 25 wins in 41 games, if he plays tonight, the Jets will welcome back the 29-year-old with open arms.
Leading the Devils in power play points (24), power play goals (8), assists (37), game winning goals (6) and overtime goals (2), Dougie Hamilton is a player to watch. The defenseman has four points in his last five games and has already reached a career-high in points with 53 after just passing the halfway mark of the season (his previous high was 50 points). It’s likely we’ll see Hamilton tally at least a point in tonight’s game.
Tune in tonight at 7 p.m. EST to see who comes out on top in this devilish matchup as the Jets step foot onto Devils’ territory for the first time this season.