The Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs have both proved themselves to be impressive teams this season. While they have had different paths to get to where they are, they’re in similar positions: at or near the top of their respective divisions.
While the Jets are coming off a loss to the Montreal Canadiens that put their winning streak to a halt, the Maple Leafs are piggy-backing off of an overtime win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (Jan. 17). As the Jets prepare for this Thursday night matchup, they have to shake off the loss and be prepared to take on an energized Leafs team. Let’s take a look at the projected lines, standout storylines, and players to watch during Thursday’s game.
Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines
Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Blake Wheeler
Morgan Barron – Mark Scheifele – Nikolaj Ehlers
Cole Perfetti – Adam Lowry – Saku Maenalanen
Karson Kuhlman – Kevin Stenlund – Sam Gagner
Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Ville Heinola – Nate Schmidt
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Calle Jarnkrok – John Tavares – Mitchell Marner
Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Zach Aston-Reese
Dryden Hunt – Alexander Kerfoot – Bobby McMann
Timothy Liljegren – Morgan Rielly
Justin Holl – Mark Giordano
Conor Timmins – Jordie Benn
Jets Winning Streak Ends At Three
Heading into Tuesday night’s dual against the Habs, the Jets were on a three-game heater and at the top of the Western Conference. This was the sixth time this season that the Jets have won three consecutive games, tied with the Boston Bruins for the most winning streaks of at least three games this season.
Jets’ coach Rick Bowness praised his team for earning the top spot in the Western Conference saying, “Maybe you know what we’ve been through with the travel and the injuries and the sickness and everything, and for us to be sitting there — and listen, there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us and there’s a long road to go, we know that — but it’s a credit to their resilience that we’re sitting here where we are today.”
Latest News & Highlights
Unfortunately, the celebration didn’t last long as the Jets lost 4-1 to the Habs after a sloppy performance, giving up their top spot in the Western Conference.
Jets’ assist leader Josh Morrissey touched on his excitement to take on the Maple Leafs after Tuesday’s loss saying, “We’ll have to be ready to go against a top team here in a couple of days. It’s a big game, always one you shouldn’t have a hard time getting up for, for sure.” With four games remaining in the Jets’ road trip, there’s still time to turn the narrative around.
Maple Leafs Injury and Illness Bug
One major storyline surrounding the Maple Leafs at the moment is the number of injuries and illnesses affecting the team. Sound familiar, Jets fans? On Monday (Jan. 16), the team announced that Nick Robertson had shoulder surgery that would put an end to his season and he will be out for six months.
Robertson suffered his shoulder injury playing against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 8, after colliding awkwardly with the boards. The forward has an injury-riddled hockey career. This season, the 21-year-old participated in 14 games with the Maple Leafs, earning two goals and three assists.
The team also announced on Monday that Mac Hollowell will be out for a minimum of 12 weeks after undergoing surgery for a fractured kneecap. He sustained the injury while playing for the Toronto Marlies as he took on the Jets’ American Hockey League (AHL) level team, the Manitoba Moose. With the Leafs, the defenceman tallied two assists in six games this season.
Another player out with a recent injury is T.J. Brodie. The defenceman suffered a rib injury on Jan. 7 and is on the road to recovery. Brodie was reportedly granted a two-week recovery time frame and skated before Maple Leafs practice on Tuesday (Jan. 17). The team has had their fair share of absences on the blue line this season. With Morgan Rielly recovering from a knee issue and Jake Muzzin still out with a neck problem, the team would benefit from Brodie’s return.
Two others who have been out are Rasmus Sandin and Pontus Holmburg, both recovering from an illness. Only time will tell when these players will be ready to join their teammates at the rink again.
Players to Watch
In the Jets’ last game, Kyle Connor reached an incredible milestone of 200 goals as he granted his team the 1-0 lead in the second period. While this ended up being the team’s only goal in a rather disappointing game, you can’t deny that Connor achieved a remarkable feat. Reaching 200 goals in 429 games, the left-winger became the seventh fastest active player to reach the 200-goal mark.
Reflecting on his accomplishment the 26-year-old said, “It’s pretty cool, those milestones. You never dream in your wildest dreams that you’ll be in the NHL, let alone score 200.” He continued, “I’m sure I’ll look back on it after the year, like I always do, then move on to the next one. I’m looking forward to the next game.”
With 54 points on the season and five points in his last five games, Connor is one to watch Thursday night.
Coming in hot on Thursday is Mitch Marner. As he steps back onto the ice at Scotiabank Arena, he has the potential to extend his home point streak to 20 games. On Tuesday (Jan. 17), the right-winger set a new franchise record after earning a point in 19 consecutive games at home. This record came about a month after the Markham-native set the franchise record for the most consecutive games with a point, stretching the streak to an incredible 23 games.
Marner has earned at least one point in every home game this season, except for one (Oct. 20 against the Dallas Stars). The 25-year-old is a feast for the eyes when it comes to his nifty plays and smooth skating. Based on his track record, he’s bound to earn a point on Thursday.
Between the Jets’ powerhouses and the Maple Leafs’ speedy forwards, this matchup is one you just can’t miss. Tune in on Thursday at 7 p.m. EST to catch all the action.
Courtney is a 23-year-old graduate from the University of Western Ontario, earning her Master of Media in Journalism and Communication. She combines her longtime love for hockey, journalism, and sports media as she covers the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers.