JETBLAST: LA @ WINNIPEG

JETBLAST

LA Kings (29-20-12) at Winnipeg Jets (31-20-12) 3:00 p.m., MTS Centre,
TV: TSN3 Radio: TSN 1290
The last time Winnipeg and LA met they played in one of the most exciting games of the year. That Saturday night in California, thousands of Jets fans invaded the Staples Center to watch their team jump out to a quick 3-0 lead. The Kings however fought back and even held a lead in the 3rd period before losing a 5-4 shootout decision to Michael Hutchinson and the Jets. If the Winnipeg crowd can see a game half as good they will be happy but more importantly they want the win. Another night past means the West is closer than ever, one loss will be the difference by the end of the season. Jets and Kings in an afternoon tilt, Lets Go!

Kings

When the Jets beat LA back in January the situation looked dire for the Kings. Way out of the playoff picture it looked near impossible that the Kings would be player come March, yet here we are and not only are they players but they are in one of the better positions. The LA Kings now sit in 3rd in the Pacific division, and though they have less points than the two teams sitting in the wildcard playoff positions, they are in a spot where their playoff spot is assured. LA has been so hot in the last couple months, including 8-2 in their last 10. Not many teams are playing better hockey than Los Angeles. It has become a theme for them in the past few years, they know when to pick up their play. The Kings were the first team to win a Stanley Cup from the eighth seed, and it would surprise no one if the Kings made another run like that from near the bottom this season.

Jets

After picking up a well deserved single point against the St. Louis Blues, the opponents get no easier for Winnipeg. This afternoon their 4 game home stand continues with a date against the LA Kings. The Jets probably felt like they deserved a better fate Thursday night, they played a near flawless game against one of the top teams in the NHL. Unfortunately St. Louis was near perfect as well and took a 2-1 shootout decision. The Jets will have 3 more chances against the Blues but for now, their visions shifts to the Kings. Every one of the 19 remaining games is huge for the Jets but this one is among the most important. Though as of today LA holds one of the 3 Pacific division playoff spots, that could easily change, and come game 82 these two teams may be in direct competition for one of the two extra playoff positions. The Jets are already in a dog fight with 4 or 5 teams and every point is enormous, the games are all must win at this point.

Keys to the Game

26: It appears Blake Wheeler will be back in the lineup after missing the last two games to injury. Interestingly however, Paul Maurice seemed to like the lines in his absence, and it appears Wheeler will slip down to the third line, to play with Chris Thorburn and Adam Lowry. If Wheeler can help make the third line a threat, the Jets are in a great position going forward.

Traffic: With Jonothan Quick in the opposing net, the Winnipeg Jets face one of the best in the game. Not many guys in the world stop a puck as well as the Kings netminder. The key for the Jets is to not make it easy for him, get to the front of the net and make Quick look around or through you. If he can see it, he will stop it, make it hard on him and be around his crease all day.

Maintain the Gap: With the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames both winning since the Jets last took the ice, their lead and grasp on a playoff spot has shrunk. Now it is their turn, the Jets need to win and continue to pad their cushion. Though they will match up with both teams in the next few weeks, Winnipeg cannot count on just winning those games, they need to win every night if they expect their spot in the playoffs.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (18-7-5) GAA: 2.29 SV% .920
Jonathan Quick (25-16-10) GAA: 2.35 SV% .915

Injuries

Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Halischuk, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Perreault, WPG, (LBI) out
Wheeler, WPG, (Undisclosed) day-to-day
Chiarot, WPG, (Broken Hand) out

Martinez, LA, (PCS) out
Pearson, LA, (Broken Leg) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 5-2-3
Kings: 8-2-0

Prediction

Jets hand Kings a rare recent loss
Jets 3 Kings 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!