We’re less than five days from Christmas and all these teams want is to make the playoffs. That won’t be easy, but the first step to getting there begins by taking on another struggling team in a back-to-back situation.
The Winnipeg Jets come into tonight having won their last two games — they have yet to win three straight. Yet despite their lack of consistency, the Jets give off a feeling that they are just one move away from being a top team. Maybe it’s a more reliable third-pairing defenseman or one depth center. More obvious might be some help in goal (or just the maturation of Hellebuyck). Whatever it is, these Jets could take off at any time, and that has to be scary for any team getting ready to face them.
Maybe it’s a more reliable third-pairing defenseman or one depth center. More obvious might be some help in goal (or just the maturation of Hellebuyck). Whatever it is, these Jets could take off at any time, and that has to be scary for any team getting ready to face them.
Patrik Laine is on fire right now, coming off a three-point game. Dustin Byfuglien continues to play an absurd amount of minutes, having become the only player in the NHL this season to have played more than 900 minutes. And after a streak of bad luck, Nikolaj Ehlers kicked it into high gear last game with two goals.
The Vancouver Canucks started off the season with four-straight wins, and have not strung three together since. They need to kick off another winning streak tonight or their playoff chances will continue to drop to the point of no return. The Pacific division is not bad this year, but it isn’t great, and the Canucks have a chance of sneaking in, but they cannot afford any losing streaks. They currently sit just five points out of a playoff spot, and with a decent home record (9-5-2), have a chance to pull close with a pair of wins this week against the Jets.
The Pacific division is not bad this year, but it isn’t great, and the Canucks have a chance of sneaking in but they cannot afford any losing streaks. They currently sit just five points out of a playoff spot, and with a decent home record (9-5-2), have a chance to pull close with a pair of wins this week against the Jets.
Brandon Sutter has goals in three straight games for the Canucks, and Sven Baertschi has five points over that same span. The Canucks need the depth players to continue and generate scoring and give the veteran Sedins a bit more space on the ice.
Winnipeg Jets at Vancouver Canucks
Rogers Arena – 7 p.m. CST, 9 p.m. PST
Broadcast channels – TSN3, Sportsnet Pacific
2016-17 Season Series: First game of the season
Winnipeg Jets – 15-16-3 – 33 Points
Home/Away Record: 5-10-2
Hot Players: Patrik Laine, Brian Little
Key Injuries: Shawn Matthias, Joel Armia, Tyler Myers
Vancouver Canucks – 13-16-3 – 29 Points
Home/Away Record: 9-5-2
Hot Players: Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi
Key Injuries: Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Alexander Edler, Derek Dorsett
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1) Can either team put together a string of wins? The Winnipeg Jets have yet to win three straight games this season, and the Canucks haven’t since their season-opening streak of four. Both teams aren’t too far out of a playoff spot but need to start winning games to push themselves back into the race. Winnipeg has a chance to win three straight tonight, while the Canucks can kick off a winning streak with three games before Christmas against Winnipeg and Calgary.
2) What will Laine do today? Laine is third in the NHL with 18 goals this season and leads all rookies in points with 29. He doesn’t get a point every game, but when he does get points, they usually come in bunches. The Canucks need to limit his shot production or this could end up being a very long night for them. Adding to their troubles, Laine isn’t the only Jets player who has been on fire lately.
3) Brian Little has only played 11 games this season due to injury. He returned on November 29 and has been a force ever since. He has six points in his last six games and four points on a four-game scoring streak. But he isn’t just getting it done on offense. Little has won a team-leading 56.4% of his face-offs this season and has only lost more than he has won on two different occasions. He will slot into the second line between Perreault and Wheeler.
4) Can Vancouver’s depth continue to produce? Over the past month, Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Alex Burrows have produced more points than the Sedin twins. A popular critic of the Canucks is their lack of scoring depth, but if these three can continue to score, we may have to rethink that.
5) Who will capitalize on weak goaltending? Both Markstrom and Hellebuyck have not been at their best this season, with a save percentage of .903 and .911 respectively. A strong start by either goalie can steal the win for their team, but it may end up being a game of who scores last. It will be interesting to see if either coach pushes the offense immediately to try and rattle the opposing goalie.
6) The Tanev brothers will be meeting for the first time in their career, and Mom Tanev has already chosen a side. Considering their positions on the ice, we should not be surprised to see a few hits delivered by both, especially considering that Brandon Tanev leads all NHL rookies with 86 hits in just 34 games.
It’s hard to gauge the type of game we will see here. The Jets are 1-3-1 playing in Vancouver since they returned to Winnipeg, but have won the past four straight, outscoring the Canucks 16-7. Both games have had poor goaltending lately, but both goalies have also proven that they can steal a game for their team. It could be an all-out goal fest or a very tight defensive battle. A major key to the game will be the Canucks ability to control Winnipeg’s top line. If they can do that, they have a good chance of coming out on top.
You can watch the action unfold at Rogers Arena tonight, 7 p.m. PST, 9 p.m. CST.