The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild will do battle for the second time in 6 days on Saturday afternoon. The Wild won that meeting 2-1, but suffered a huge 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens since then. The Jets were handed a big defeat of their own, a 6-3 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Jets will be without defenseman Zach Bogosian, who has been out since November 15th with a groin strain. Mark Stuart will make his return to the Winnipeg lineup, after being sidelined since October 29th with a hip injury. Jets’ defenseman Dustin Byfuglieb was described as “banged-up” by Head Coach Claude Noel, and there is a slim chance he could miss this game, although he is expected to play.
The Wild will be without goaltender Niklas Backstrom, as well as defenseman Keith Ballard, who are both on the Injured Reserve with upper-body injuries. Wild goalie Josh Harding is expected to get the start, after surprising many through the first quarter of the season, among the league leaders in GAA and Save Percentage, and posting 2 shutouts.
The Jets will need to minimize their turnovers, especially in the defensive zone. A consistent, calm breakout will be key to penetrating the Wild zone. The Jets’ top offensive weapons of Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, and Bryan Little will have to wear down Wild defenceman Ryan Suter, who is the league leader in average time on ice. Secondary scoring could win the Jets the game, as many of the Wild’s defensemen do not have loads of experience, and Suter will have his hands full with the top line.
On the defensive side of the coin, the Jets will have to be mobile, as many of the Wild forwards are among the fastest in the league. Active sticks will be key, as the Jets try to take away the passing lanes, rendering set-up men like Jason Pominville ineffective. The Jets’ defense did a good job of hopping up into the play on Thursday against the Blackhawks, with 2 goals from blue-liners, and this could be a game-breaker, provided the forwards enter the zone efficiently, and often.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get his second straight start. He will face a lot of rubber this afternoon, and will need to improve his rebound control to help out his defensemen.
The Jets can get a win this afternoon if they patch their offensive attack, and get contributions from all 21 players, something they did not accomplish in their last game.
Puck drop from the MTS Centre is slated for 2 PM. You can catch the game on TSN Jets, or TSN 1290 Radio.
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