These two division rivals meet for the second time this season each looking to gain a step in the tight race for the last few spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The last meeting in Florida was a tight game which saw Jets forward Bryan Little score a power play goal in overtime to give Winnipeg a 3-2 win. Since then it has been two completely different stories, Winnipeg has climbed to just a couple of points from the Southeast lead while Florida has fallen to dead last in the conference.
Florida has been absolutely decimated by injuries this year and it has taken them completely out of the race. The most recent addition to the injury report was goaltender Jose Theodore, who suffered a lower body injury and will be out up to 6 weeks. This next stretch will either end Florida’s season or give them renewed life. After losing 4 of their last 5 the Panthers next stretch of 5 includes 4 divisional games which if succesful could put them right back in the hunt in the Southeast. One of Florida’s lone bright spots this year has been rookie Johnathan Huberdeaus play, who has carried the team offensively. For Florida to win they will need the boost of offense that he gives them to continue.
Winnipeg fans never thought they would see the day that they would be happy to see their team go on the road but that is how it feels right now. The Jets have seen enormous success on the road recently while just playing average at home. Winnipeg is also on a stretch of inter-divisional games and this is a time for them to take advantage. With both Florida and Carolina missing their number one goalie respectively this could be a time to make up some major ground in the Southeast and even get ahead. This game could be the first on the road to success for the Jets but they need to play their A game.
Keys to the Game
Can we decline the penalty?: Winnipeg last played Florida on February 5th when Bryan Little scored a power play goal to win the game. Since then the Jets have just one goal with the extra man. In the month since Littles goal the power play has been nothing short of embarrassing and it needs to improve before this team can consider itself a playoff contender.
Scoring: Playing against a backup goalie Winnipeg needs to get shots and generate chances. To do that they need the top players to be the best. Andrew Ladd has been on fire, setting a career high with 12 goals in February. The Jets need this offense to continue, add Evander Kane and his recent play to the mix and the Jets may be able to keep up the strong road play.
Number 1: Ondrej Pavelec is the number one goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets and with the loss of two other number ones in the Southeast his play becomes even more important. If he plays well he may even be able to boost the Jets to number one.
Ondrej Pavelec (7-9-1) GAA: 2.98 SV% .899
Scott Clemmensen (2-3-2) GAA: 4.15 SV% .859
Miettenen WPG, (Lower body) questionable
Enstrom WPG, (Shoulder) out
Redmond WPG, (Thigh Laceration) out
Peluso WPG, (Hand) out
Theodore FLA, (Lower Body) out
Kulikov FLA, (Upper Body) out
Upshall FLA, (Lower Body) questionable
Weaver FLA, (Lower Body) out
Versteeg FLA, (Upper Body) out
Jovanovski FLA, (Knee) out
Caruso FLA, (Broken Arm) out
Bergenheim FLA, (Groin) out
Last 10 (W-L-OTL)
Jets dominate Panthers
Jets 5 Panthers 2