JETBLAST: DALLAS @ WINNIPEG

JETBLAST

Dallas Stars (22-19-7) at Winnipeg Jets (26-16-8) 6:00 p.m., MTS Centre,
TV: City Radio: TSN 1290
For the third time this season the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars match up, for the first time in Winnipeg. The Jets took each of the first two meeting between the teams, the first a dominating performance back in early December, and the second just two weeks ago, a game Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stole from the Stars. This series probably should be one-one, however the Jets hold the upper hand and will look to grow it on Hockey Night in Canada. Jets and Stars, Lets Go!

Stars

After struggling early this season, and failing to find consistency after that, the Stars finally appear to have become the team that was expected before this year started. Over the last couple weeks, Dallas has played their way up from the basement of the Western Conference and now sit only 4 points out of the final playoff spot. This will be the third game of a Canadian road trip for the Stars who return home for 2 after tonight. Thursday night they snapped a two game losing streak when they dismantled the Ottawa Senators. While the Stars continue to struggle to find their stride on the defensive side of the puck, they are often able to hide these problems with their potent offense. There are very few offenses that can strike as quick and as often as this Stars team, led of course by Tyler Seguin. Seguin has managed 53 points in 48 games played this year and has had some success in this divisional battle against the Jets. The Stars need to take advantage of this Jets defense who has struggled recently, if they are not able to put at least 3 behind Hutchinson, they have no chance at winning this game.

Jets

Two losses in a row and all of a sudden a playoff race the looked like it was being run away with is now back in reach. The Jets who lost both their games in Pennsylvania and are 0-2 since the All-star break have watched a playoff spot that was within reach, slip and fall a little farther away. All is not doom and gloom however, the Jets still hold a lead and as long as they stop this losing streak before it gets too long they still hold the advantage in the playoff race. The last two games have been very disappointing for the Jets as they gave up 10 goals in 2 games. The defense that has earned so much praise this season has let them down, and that is the biggest difference in this team so far since the break. The Jets will try to shuffle up their defensive pairings tonight to try and a spark a little something. Dustin Byfuglien will now play with Tobi Enstrom on the top pairing, while Ben Chariot will drop down to play with Zach Bogosian. No pairing can take the blame for the teams losses, it has been an all around failure the last couple games. The one thing the Jets will hope for is the play of Dustin Byfuglien to return to level that it was a couple weeks ago. We have not seen big number 33 play as rough as we have come to expect and he has been far less of a factor on the offensive end of the ice. Winnipeg need more from Byfuglien if they want to get back on track.

Keys to the Game

1st Lines: The Stars have a very powerful top line and they seem to be going at all cylinders right now. The Jets top line on the other hand have been struggling. It is expected that Bryan Little is dealing with some kind of injury and Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd have struggled recently. The biggest issue on this line is that it appears that two do not work with the other. If one is struggling they all struggle, and the Jets cannot afford these guys going through a rough patch. This battle will go a long way to determining who wins this game.

Help Hutch: Michael Hutchinson made some unbelievable saves Thursday night in Philadelphia. With a lesser performance that game very easily could have been out of reach in the first period. The Jets cannot rely on their goaltenders that heavily however and must be able to limit the odd man chances against, and spend some time in the offensive zone. Both Pavelec and Hutchinson have been solid for most of this season, but you cannot expect them to steal many games when you play that poorly around them.

Spezza and Seguin: Just like the Flyers had Giroux and Voracek, the Stars have their own couple of snipers that can completely change the game. Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza are two explosive talents and if you give them two much time or space they will make you pay.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (14-5-2) GAA: 2.00 SV% .932
Kari Lehtonen (20-11-7) GAA: 2.99 SV% .903

Injuries

Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Halischuk, WPG, (Undisclosed) out

Eric Cole, DAL, (UBI) day-to-day
Nischuskin, DAL, (Groin) out
Nemeth, DAL, (Arm) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 6-3-1
Stars: 4-5-1

Prediction

Jets drop third straight as lead in West continues to shrink
Stars 4 Jets 2

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Diehard Winnipeg sports fan. Agree or disagree with something I wrote? Find me on twitter @seantheoilcan and let me know Go Jets Go!