JETBLAST: WINNIPEG @ MINNESOTA

JETBLAST

Winnipeg Jets (18-10-7)  at  Minnesota Wild (16-13-3) 6:00 p.m., Xcel Energy Center,
TV: CBC Radio: TSN 1290
Turkeys are eaten, presents are opened, the holidays are over, and the NHL is ready to drop the puck on their post Christmas schedule with a slate of games Saturday night. For the second time this season, and the first half of a home and home, the Winnipeg Jets will visit the Minnesota Wild and try to even the season series as well as lengthen their lead in the Western Conference standings. the first time The Jets visited Minnesota in the middle of November proved to be one of the most exciting games of the Jets season. It did not look good earlier as the Wild jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and thoroughly dominated the Jets for the better part of the first 40. The winds changed in the third however and the Jets were able to score 3 straight, even the game and send it to overtime. Minnesota left that night with the extra point on Marco Scandella’s overtime goals, but especially how the game started, both teams left feeling like they had got a win. A big Central division game goes 6 P.M. tonight, Lets Go!

Wild

The Minnesota Wild have been a disappointment this season in every sense of the word. After reaching the second round of the NHL playoffs last season, much was expected from the very strong looking Wild. However, the year started slowly and Minnesota has not been able to play with any consistency and after nearly 35 games they are on the outside looking in and 5th in the Central division. With the amount of skill this roster has it is not good enough, and the Wild need to turn it around in the second half to avoid some major off season changes. Currently the Wild sit 6 points out of a playoff spot, 8 points behind the Winnipeg Jets in seventh, and despite having a few games in hand, it is a big hill to climb. The one bright spot for the Wild has been their play at home in the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild are 9-4-3 at home so this game will be critically important.

Jets

The Jets took a ton of momentum into the Christmas break after a dominating 5-1 win in Chicago. the Hawks have only lost 9 games this season in regulation, two of them to Winnipeg and both in Chicago. This is a major achievement for the Jets who have in past years struggled with Central division opponents. Speaking of, two straight games against Minnesota is a huge chance to separate themselves from the pack. Already 8 points up on their closest divisional rival, the Jets have the chance in the next two game to really push the Wild out of their minds and out of the playoff hunt. One of the men the Jets will look to is Mathieu Perrault. Perrault, who was picked up as a free agent in the summer, has points in 8 straight games, and 3 in the Hawks game. Perrault took a long time to get going this season, but he has gotten hot and gives the Jets a lethal secondary scoring option, which is a huge asset to this team which has been forced to lean on one line for much of their time in Winnipeg. The next two games will be 2 of the most important the Jets have played so far this season, and if they can have success on the road, it will make the rematch Monday night that much easier.

Keys to the Game

Play a full 60 Minutes: Last time these teams met the Jets fell behind early and didn’t really get going until the third period. Though they still left with a single point, had the Jets shown up for the 60 minutes they could have easily went home with two points, they will look to do that Saturday night.

Steal at least a Point: In a home and home series, often teams will play better on their home ice and a large percentage of the time the games are split in that fashion. If the Jets can go on the road and take a point from the Wild, if not two, they then have the chance to go home, and take advantage of a Wild team with a very poor road record. This series has the chance to be an 8 point swing and the team that comes out on top will have a huge advantage.

Back to Back: Michael Hutchinson will get back to back starts for the first time since last season and this may be an opportunity to take this number one job away from Ondrej Pavelec. The Jets appear to play far more confident when Hutchinson is in the net and this makes them a better team. If Hutch can continue this play the Jets will have success in their playoff hunt.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (8-2-2) GAA: 1.73 SV% .940
Darcy Kuemper (11-10-0) GAA: 2.64 SV% .901

Injuries

Enstrom, WPG, (LBI) out
Trouba, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Bogosian, WPG, (LBI) out
Stuart, WPG, (LBI) out

Zucker, MIN, (Illness) day-to-day
Ballard, MIN, (Facial lacerations) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 6-1-3
Wild: 3-4-3

Prediction

Jets will sweep back to back with Wild
Jets 4 Wild 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!