|(30-27-8) 68 points||(31-27-8) 70 points|
11th in East, 3rd in Northeast
8th in East, 2nd in Southeast
The Sabres have made themselves relevant to the playoff race despite placing a For Sale sign on the roster prior to the February 27 trade deadline. They have since reeled off 3 straight wins and are 6-0-1 in their last 7 games. They come into this game in 11th place but only 2 points back of the 8th place Jets. To say this game is huge for both teams would be an understatement.
Buffalo’s penalty kill has been perfect in their last four games going 10-10. They’ll come into tonight’s match up to face the leagues best power play at home and one that has gone 10-21 over the first 7 games of their home stand, Staying out of the box may be the best option but if not that perfect penalty kill streak will be put to the test.
The last time Buffalo walked away with two points in Winnipeg was February 10, 1993, however they are 7-9-7 all time on the road against the Jets/Thrashers franchise. Tyler Ennis comes in on a 5 game point streak and when Ennis scores the team is 9-1-3
The Jets wrap up a season long 8 game home stand and are currently 4-1-2 over the first 7. Evander Kane is riding a career high eight game point streak registering 7 goals and 7 assists over that stretch. Winnipeg holds the season series edge of the Sabres 2-0-1 in the previous 3 games this is the last time they will meet this year.
The Jets power play has been the key to their success recently scoring 10 times in their last 16 attempts. That now brings it to a league best 25.2% at home and 19.8% which has them tied for sixth overall in the league. Keeping the power play hot will be important as they take to the road for back-to-back games in Vancouver and Calgary after tonight’s match up.
The 5 third period goals against Florida was a franchise record and Evander Kane was a +4 in that game improving him a team best +18 at home, the only problem with that is Kane is a -8 on the road, like most of the Jets if they are to make the playoffs they will need to find a way to bring their home game with them when they travel away from the MTS Centre.
Zach Bogosian re-injured himself and will be lost for tonight’s match up and possibly the two game road trip. Grant Clitsome will likely make his Jets debut tonight so the team can better evaluate him and see how he’ll fit into the lineup. Mark Flood would be the other option should Noel have a change of heart.
Tampa Bay, Washington and Toronto all are in action tomorrow night while the Jets and Sabres are off, then on Wednesday the Sabres and Leafs both play. If all of those teams win it’s conceivable that with a loss the Jets could fall from 8th down to 12th by the time they take to the ice in Vancouver, Thursday night. A win will ensure that they stay in 8th and will bring them only 2 points back of the idle Florida Panthers for 1st in the Southeast.
Keys to Victory
Have a strong second period, the Jets have scored 37% of their goals in the second this year while the Sabres have allowed 36% of their goals against while only scoring 29% of their goals themselves in the middle frame. Both teams are horrible when trailing after two periods so this game should be won in the second period.
Rattle Miller. Ryan Miller has been on fire allowing 3 goals in their last 3 victories. The Jets offense has been hot but they may need to resort to the little things to score, crash the net, look for rebounds and get a man in the slot and blast it from the point.
Score first. Both the Jets and Sabres are substantially better when scoring first, in fact both sport an identical winning percentage of 60% after scoring first. At home that is even higher for the Jets.
Ondrej the Giant. Pavelec will have to be better than Miller, statistically these two teams are fairly evenly matched and in cases like that it often comes down to who has the better goaltender on that night.
Zach Bogosian (Upper Body) – Out
Jets – Ondrej Pavelec (24-21-7, 2.77, .911) [Confirmed]
Sabres- Ryan Miller (22-17-5, 2.59, .915) [Unconfirmed]
The Jets need to win this game but so do the Sabres, the difference in this one will be the play of Ondrej Pavelec and Blake Wheeler who will lead the Jets to this all important victory.
Winnipeg Jets 3 – Buffalo Sabres 1