JETBLAST: WINNIPEG @ MINNESOTA

JETBLAST

Winnipeg Jets (9-7-2) at Minnesota Wild (9-7-0) 4:00 p.m., Excel Energy Center, TV: TSN3  Radio:TSN 1290

The Jets and their closest divisional rival finally get acquainted for the 2014-15 season Sunday afternoon when Winnipeg visits the Minnesota Wild. This is one of the Jets biggest rivalries since returning, aided by the fact that it is only about an 8 hour car ride between the two cities, and whenever Winnipeg visits Excel, they bring many of their hometown supporters. Both teams are playing the second half of back to backs, with both games being divisional, and both ending by a 2-1 score. Minnesota managed to take two points from Dallas on the back of a Mikael Granlund goal with just 40 seconds remaining, while the Jets also saw a late third period goal be the difference but it was Nashvilles Colin Smith. Divisional games are always important with 4 points in the standings on the line but this one feels bigger than just another game. Wild and Jets, Lets Go!

Wild

The start of this season was not what the Minnesota Wild were expecting. After making it to the second round of the playoffs last season, they were hoping to take the next step into real cup contender. Some early struggles however put the Wild behind the eight ball and they have since been fighting their way back into contention. Last night they picked up a huge two points in Dallas and with another win Sunday at home against Winnipeg, the Wild can vault themselves into the third spot in the Central and back into a position they were expected to have, fighting for one of the top seeds. The Wild are a strong team from the back end right out, and are led by captain Ryan Suter. Suter may be one of the most underrated top defenseman in the league. He plays more minutes then just about anyone in the league, he plays all situations, and he even has the ability to score when he gets chances. Yet rarely is he talked about as one of the leagues best. Minnesota will look for a third straight win Sunday afternoon against Winnipeg.

Jets

Same old song and dance for the team from Winnipeg in Saturdays 2-1 heartbreaking loss to the Nashville Predators. Plenty of chances but no one can finish. Nashville also played their game, tight defensivly and wait until the chance came, and sure enough in the dwindling minutes Colin Smith found himself alone at the side of the net and a bouncing puck found his stick to put the Preds up for good. Winnipeg again would be happy with the effort level, being either tied or ahead the entire game before Smiths goal. They opened the scoring on a Blake Wheeler short handed rush which saw him put a great shot short side on Pekka Rinne. Wheeler has been huge for the Jets all season and is quietly becoming a star not only on this team but league wide. Wheeler leads the team in both points (13) and goals (8), 2 of those goals being game winners, he is also second on the team behind only Dustin Byfuglien in Penalty Minutes. Normally you do not want your star that high in that category, however the way Wheeler is playing with a bit of an edge this season seems to be working for him and adds another gritty hard to play against player to the Jets top 6 forwards. This is a huge game for Winnipeg who cannot afford to drop 2 divisional game this weekend, it is early in the season but that kind of damage can be the difference between playing with the lead, and fighting from behind the rest of the season.

Keys to the Game

Use the Crowd: It is rare that a team can get huge support on the road but the way Jets fans travel and the proximity to Winnipeg may even get this one to a 50/50 noise split. See you there Jets fans, lets give our team a boost.

4 Point Game: Divisional games in the NHL are so huge, by winning not only do you get 4 points but you keep your opponent from getting 2. It is a 4 point swing either way and the Jets need these points bad.

Back to back Pavs: In his past Ondrej Pavelec has not been great in back to back situations, but by giving him the night off Thursday in Carolina they set him up to play both this weekend. It will be a challenge however and they need him at his best.

Starting Goalies

Ondrej Pavelec (7-6-2) GAA: 2.04 SV% .927
Niklas Backstrom (2-2-0) GAA: 2.33 SV% .897

Injuries

Scandella, MIN, (Sick) day-to-day

Brodin, MIN, (Sick) day-to-day

Parise, MIN, (UBI) out

Cooke, MIN, (LBI) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 6-2-2
Wild: 5-5-0

Prediction

Wild continue to give Jets offense problems
Wild 3 Jets 1

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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!