Florida Panthers at Winnipeg Jets
(21-15-10) 52 points | (22-20-5) 49 points
8th in East, 2nd in Southeast | 10th in East, 3rd in Southeast
The Panthers are wrapping up a three game road trip in four nights and are coming into this game 3-4-3 over their last ten games and have dropped out of the Southeast Division penthouse thanks to the tiebreak with the Washington Capitals. They will be looking to rebound after losing 3-1 to Chicago last night. The silver lining for both the Panthers and Jets was that Carolina found their Hurricane and beat the Capitals 3-0 to keep the Panthers tied with them.
The Panthers have overachieved in most peoples eyes this season but first year coach Kevin Dineen has them playing inspired team hockey and that has had them leading the Southeast most of the season. The Panthers have started to slide as of late and if they can’t right the ship quickly could slip right out of playoff contention much like the Atlanta Thrashers did last year after leading the division for the first half of the season.
The Jets are 4-6-0 over their last ten games but are coming of a key 4-1 home win over the struggling Buffalo Sabres to bring them within 3 points of the division leading Capitals. The Jets have been strong at home with a 15-8-1 record as opposed to 7-12-4 on the road.
If the Jets are to remain in the playoff hunt they will have to remain dangerous at home and improve on the road. They have a very small margin for error and can’t afford to lose 4 point games at you one against division rivals.
Keys to Victory
The Jets have to get off to a quick start and scoring first will get an already energetic crowd fired up.
Pavelec has to be Pavelec and be the all-star we have seen him be. When he’s been good he’s great but when he’s been bad he’s been awful.
Play physical and out work them. The Panthers are where they are because they play a complete team game. They have no stand out stars except for maybe Versteeg but all in all talent wise they are similar to the Jets. The team that works harder wins this one.
Don’t take penalties, too many times we’ve seen the Jets give up more power play opportunities then they are getting and that is always a recipe for disaster. The Jets and Panthers are almost identical in power play and short-handed situations (18.1% to 19.0 and 82.9 to 81.0) so the team with more opportunities should win the game.
Win the face off battle. The Jets are 49.5% while the Panthers are 50.3%. Puck control is always important, but with two teams that are as statistically balanced as Winnipeg and Florida it could be the difference in the outcome of the game.
Dustin Byfuglien (knee) out
Tim Stapleton (lower body) out
Zach Bogosian (lower body) probable
Evander Kane (concussion) out
Jets – Ondrej Pavelec (Confirmed)
Panthers – Scott Clemenson (unconfirmed)
With leading goal scorer Evander Kane out of the line up it will be up to Eric Fehr to fill his shoes on one of the top two lines. We’ll see if the chance to play beside Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little will help get Eric’s offensive game back on track.
Injuries aside I still like the Jets to grind out a close one in regulation over a Panthers team that is struggling and coming into the Hangar on a back to back. While no other team has been as futile in back to back games as Winnipeg I look for the Jets to climb to within 1 point of the Panthers and Capitals after the day is done.
Winnipeg Jets 3 – Florida Panthers 1