The Winnipeg Jets (19-19-5) hit a bump in the road to a consistent start to the 2014 calendar year in their last game, and an afternoon match-up with the Boston Bruins (27-12-2) looming will not be any easier.
The Jets, who were hot to finish 2013, were on the wrong side of a 4-3 outcome in their last game, with the Ottawa Senators snapping Winnipeg’s three-game win streak. The Bruins lost to the same Senators team by an identical score last week, and after following that up with a loss to the lowly New York Islanders, Boston got back on track with a 3-2 overtime win against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Saturday’s meeting will be the first of two this season, with the other game coming on April 10th, in the second-last game of the season for both teams. All-time, the Jets are 3-3-1 against Boston, but have never won at the T.D. Garden.
The Jets will see Ondrej Pavelec back between the pipes, after Al Montoya briefly took over as the Jets’ starting goaltender for a four-game stint. Pavelec, who played 7 minutes before getting pulled after allowing 3 goals on 6 shots against the Minnesota Wild, is averaging a .902% save percentage and a 3.02 GAA this season. His counterpart will be Bruins starter Tuukka Rask, who has put up a .932% save percentage, and a 1.99 GAA in 2013-14. Both goaltenders are 26 years of age, both are European, and both will be playing in their 33rd game of the season on Saturday.
Boston will have a healthy active roster entering the game, with young defenseman Torey Krug taking a “maintenance day” on Friday in preparation for the game. The Bruins will still see Dennis Seidenberg (ACL/MCL), Chris Kelley (broken leg), and Loui Eriksson (concussion) on the sidelines, as all three remain on Injured Reserve. The Jets also have a full IR: Jim Slater (hernia), Paul Postma (blood clot), Matt Halischuk (broken arm) and Grant Clitsome (illness) round out the names on the list, with no signs of a return pending for any of them.
Blake Wheeler looks to remain hot and prove why he was named to the USA Men’s Olympic team, after scoring 10 goals in 15 games since December 2nd. The former Bruin played three seasons in Boston, including his rookie season where he scored 21 goals with an astounding +36 rating.
Pressure will be on Pavelec to perform well against a high-powered Boston offense on Saturday, as many believe that Montoya should be given the starting role due to the Jets’ recent success with Pavelec on the bench.
Winnipeg’s improving power-play did not have an opportunity in their last game out, the first time this season that a Jets’ opponent was penalty-free.
The Jets are 9-11-1 on the road this season, while the Bruins are 17-4-2 in their home rink. Boston is 7-2-2 against the Western Conference, one of 5 Eastern teams with a positive record against the West. Winnipeg is 11-5-1 against Eastern Conference teams, one of 10 Western teams with a positive inter-conference record.
You can watch the game on TSN Jets, or listen live on TSN 1290 radio. Non-regional viewers can see the action on NESN. The game gets underway from T.D. Garden at noon Central time.
Thanks for reading. For more Winnipeg Jets conversation and live game updates follow us on twitter @hkyattheforks.