JETBLAST: WINNIPEG @ PITTSBURGH

JETBLAST

Winnipeg Jets (26-14-8) at Pittsburgh Penguins (26-12-8) 6:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center,
TV: TSN3 Radio: TSN 1290
The Winnipeg Jets earned their break headed into All-Star weekend riding a 5 game win streak and playing their way not only into a solid wild card spot, but all the way up to division contenders. Things get no easier for Winnipeg however as they start the post break schedule with a tough set of games, first up, two road games in Pennsylvania. The Penguins have not been the dominant force everyone expected this season, however they still have all kinds of skill, and only 12 losses on the season proves that. The first match up between these teams went right to the wire, Pittsburgh earning a 4-3 shootout win, and there is no reason to think Tuesday night will be any different. The Jets look to extend a franchise best win streak Tuesday evening, Lets Go!

Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins will come into Tuesdays game without two of the most skilled players in the entire world. Crosby will be sitting out after skipping the All Star game to take care of some aches and pains. Sid the kid, who has only taken part in 1 All-Star game in his 10 year career, played in the Pens last game but his long term health is still a question mark. Malkin on the other hand was hurt in the Pens last game and was put on the IR Monday evening. These are two glaring holes in the Pens lineup, their two highest scorers, by nearly twenty points. The Pens will now lean more on role players like Brandon Sutter, who notched three points in the first meeting with the Jets, and newly acquired David Perron. Perron who struggled with the Oilers for most of the season has seen some what of a resurgence since being dealt. Playing with far more skilled players has suited the winger and he looks to continue to improve, with the two stars out it may be his time to lead this team offensively.

Jets

The Jets earned all of their last 10 possible points, 11 of their last 12, and now sit closer to the top of their division than they are to being out of a playoff spot. Sitting in 7th, Winnipeg is 7 points up on the 8th place Flames, 8 on the 9th place Kings and 10 or more on the rest of the conference. They are only 2 points away from both Chicago and St. Louis who sit 2nd and 3rd in the Central, and 5 points behind the top dogs in Nashville. The Jets also got a boost from the All-Star break as it appears Mathieu Perreault will be returning to the lineup for Tuesdays game. Perreault, who missed two games after taking a cross check from Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo, was the Jets hottest player at the time of his injury, and jumps back into the lineup rested and ready to get back to business. The reason the Jets have been so hot lately is the play of all 4 lines. In the past this team has relied heavily on just their line or two. Right now though, the Jets are getting solid play and production from all 4 lines, and when the Jets can role their lines they become a very dangerous team. When Winnipeg is playing 60 minutes as a team, they can beat any team in this league.

Keys to the Game

No Crosby, no Malkin, no problem?: Without a teams two best players, that team will almost always be the under dog. Without two of the best players in the world it will be much of the same and that may have many fans looking past this Penguins team. The Jets cannot look at this roster however, and just assume victory because of the big voids created by Crosby and Malkins absence. The Pens have plenty of talent however and if the Jets don’t come to play Pittsburgh will be able to take advantage and win.

Size and Speed: The key to the Jets success all season has been their style of play. The Jets are a big and fast team, and it is a deadly combination. They fly into the zone on forechecks and try to knock opponents straight through the end boards. That kind of play takes its tole on opponents and the Jets have continued to win. The Jets need to continue to use their strengths as advantages, and they will continue to earn points game after game.

Goaltending: The biggest change from this season to last for this Winnipeg team has been the play of their goaltenders. Ondrej Pavelec has seen his numbers soar from last years, and Michael Hutchinson put himself right into the conversation for the All-Star game with his play. If the Jets can continue to count on the one-two punch of Hutch and Pavs they will continue to have success and may keep moving up the standings. This is a team that no one will want to play in the playoffs, and if they can somehow work their way into a home ice advantage scenario, it may be enough to earn more than just a playoff berth.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (14-4-2) GAA: 1.90 SV% .935
Marc-Andre Fleury (22-9-5) GAA: 2.31 SV% .921

Injuries

Trouba, WPG, (Undisclosed) day-to-day
Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season

Crosby, PIT, (LBI) out
Letang, PIT, (Head) day-to-day
Malkin, PIT, (LBI) out
Despres, PIT, (Illness) day-to-day
Hornqvist, PIT, (LBI) out
Comeau, PIT, (UBI) out
Maatta, PIT, (Illness) out
Dupuis, PIT, (Blood Clot) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 7-2-1
Penguins: 4-3-3

Prediction

Jets make it 6 in a row, keep on rolling
Jets 3 Penguins 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!