|(41-18-8) 90 points||(32-27-8) 72 points|
2nd in West, 1st in Northwest
8th in East, 2nd in Southeast
The Canucks sat in first place overall not more than a week ago, since then two straight loses and they find themselves 1 point back of St. Louis for first in the West. The Canucks aren’t in any risk to fall further then second place as they lead third place Dallas by 13 points. The lead in the Northwest is a measly 16 points with one game in hand over the Colorado avalanche. The push to the finish in Vancouver is for home ice advantage in the West and then the league.
Despite that close race the Canucks are a fairly relaxed and confident team, tonight they are up against the Jets a team clinging to playoff aspirations and in a dogfight to win their division with four teams within 6 points and for the eighth seed hanging onto it with a 2 point lead over Washington and Buffalo.
The Canucks will have to amp up the intensity as they take on a Jets team that has had Tuesday and Wednesday to relax after wrapping up a 5-1-2 home stand with a 3-1 win over the Sabres on Monday.
The Canucks turn to former Manitoba Moose goalie Cory Schneider tonight as Luongo has struggled in his last two starts. Schneider played several seasons in Winnipeg before getting the call up and is widely regarded as the most worthy back up ready to be a starter. Vancouver has relied heavily on the netminder who has started 21 games and played in 25 so far.
The Jets are entering this two game road swing riding the high of a 5-1-2 home stand and are 6-2-2 in their last 10. They sit in eighth place but while they’ve established breathing room on the slumping Toronto Maple Leafs, they have a new threat joining Washington in the Buffalo Sabres. The Tampa Bay Lightning have also clawed back into it sitting 4 points back and with 1 game in hand.
The pressure will be huge for the Jets to finally bring their home act on the road and playing back-to-back in Vancouver and Calgary may just be the answer. Just as in Minnesota a large Pro-Winnipeg contingent is expected to be on hand with many ex-peggers now residing in those Western cities.
Blake Wheeler leads the Jets with 54 points, former Art Ross winners Henrik and Daniel Sedin sit with 66 and 64 points. Considering Wheeler’s painfully slow start that saw him get 7 points in the first 18 games before scoring his first goal, he has since then been just shy of a point per game player average .959 in the last 49 games.
Keys to Victory
Road Powerplay success. The Jets have the best home Powerplay and sixth overall in the league… Imagine how good they would be if they could capitalize at even close to the 25% they have at the MTS Centre this year on the road as well.
Score first. The Jets are in hostile territory but an early goal will bring out the rowdiness of the Jets fans in attendance.
Ondrej needs to be good. He’s finally been getting some offensive support, but at the end of the day Pavelec is the engine that can’t break or the Jets will crash and burn.
Face offs. The stat that can control the game. Face offs were huge in the win over Buffalo and winning that battle will help keep the puck in Vancouver’s end and out of Winnipeg’s
Zach Bogosian (Upper Body) – Questionable
Jets – Ondrej Pavelec (22-20-7, 2.77, .911) [Unconfirmed]
Canucks – Cory Schneider (14-6-1, 2.09, .932) [Confirmed]
The Jets are in tough against the team True North helped build by developing their prospects when they ran the Manitoba Moose. Two ex-Moose could prove to be the difference in a game that I believe will be decided in a skills competition.
Winnipeg Jets 3 – Vancouver Canucks 4 (SO)