One team has salvaged a poor start with better play as of late, and the other has done the exact opposite. The Winnipeg Jets (25-25-5) and Vancouver Canucks (27-19-9) will take to the ice at the MTS Centre on Friday night, in a clash of two teams that have had very different seasons.
The Canucks have had a well-publicized fall from grace, losing players, coaches, and games. Vancouver has won just three of their last five games, and most recently were out-powered by the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Winnipeg, who earned their last win against Chicago on Sunday, suffered a setback in their recent success with a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Despite the loss, they have won six of their last nine games. Vancouver took the first game of the three-game season series 2-1 on December 22nd in BC. The last time Vancouver visited Winnipeg, visiting Canucks won 5-2 on February 21, 1996.
The Canucks will start back-up Eddie Lack for the first time in two weeks, after starter Roberto Luongo made six straight starts. Lack, who is in his rookie season, has gone 8-6-3 with a .922% save percentage and a 2.12 GAA in 20 games. The Jets have not made a decision between Al Montoya and Ondrej Pavelec for the start at this point. Pavelec was in net against the Canucks earlier this year, making 23 saves. He has a .901% save percentage and 2.99 GAA in 42 games this season, while Montoya has put up a .925% save percentage and 2.22 GAA in 16 outings.
The Canucks injury list continues to get longer, as the team announced that Kevin Bieksa will not make the five-game road trip starting in Winnipeg. As a result, the team recalled Frankie Corrado from the Utica Comets of the AHL. The Canucks also announced on Thursday that Mike Santorelli will miss the remainder of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery. Captain Henrik Sedin is day-to-day with a rib injury, and will be a game-time decision for the team. Vancouver is also without Chris Tanev (broken thumb), and Andrew Alberts (concussion).
Winnipeg will be without Evander Kane, who is out until the Olympic Break with a hand infection. The Jets are also missing Jim Slater (hernia), Matt Halischuk (broken arm), and Grant Clitsome, who is out for the season following surgery on his back. Paul Postma (blood clot) was activated from the team’s Injured Reserve, and loaned to the St. John’s Ice Caps on a conditioning stint. Eric O’Dell became a father earlier this week, and will not play Friday. In his place will be Eric Tangradi, who hasn’t played in eight games.
It will be a homecoming for Tanev, Lack, Jordan Schroeder, Jannik Hansen, Alexandre Burrows, Ryan Kesler, and Alexander Edler, who will all be returning to Winnipeg for the first time since leaving as members of the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ former AHL affiliate. Dale Weise of the Canucks is also a Winnipeg native, but never played with the Moose in his career. Along with the players on the ice will be Canucks.com writer Derek Jory, who covered the Moose for parts of two seasons.
The Canucks’ John Tortorella will serve the final game of his 15-day suspension, and will be back with the team on Sunday as they travel to Detroit. Behind the other bench lies a much more positive coaching story, that of Paul Maurice, who has guided the Jets to a 6-2 record since stepping in on January 12th.
Vancouver holds a 13-10-4 record on the road this season, nearly equal to the Jets’ home record of 13-11-4. Winnipeg is 7-4-1 against Pacific Division teams, while the Canucks are 6-5-1 against teams from the Central Division. This game will be the Jets’ last game in Winnipeg until February 27th, as they embark on a four-game road trip before the Olympic break.
You can see Friday’s game nationwide on the main TSN network, as well as listen live on TSN 1290 radio. The game gets underway at 7:30 PM CT.
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