Game Day Preview: Panthers @ Jets

Posted by Ezra Ginsburg in Game Previews,Winnipeg Jets on March 1, 2012 — No Comments

When: Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time: 7:30 p.m. CST

Where: MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Records: Winnipeg Jets (30-27-8), Florida Panthers (30-20-12)

Television/Radio: FS-F,TSN-JETS/ TSN 1290 Radio

The Story: To say that tonight’s Southeast Division match-up between the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers is critical would be the biggest understatement of the 2011’12 NHL Regular Season.

Let’s break it down.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Jets sit in 9th place in the Eastern Conference and are a single point behind the Washington Capitals for the 8th and final playoff spot. Winnipeg has played 65 games so far this season (tied with the Ottawa Senators for the most games played so far) and have 17 games left in the season including tonight’s match-up against the Panthers.

Tonight’s game is the seventh game of an eight-game home stand which has seen the Jets earn points in five of a possible six games (3-1-2).

The Jets currently trail the Panthers by four points for top spot in the Southeast Division but the Panthers have three games in hand.  Now, considering that the Jets and Panthers play twice more this season (The Jets will the play the Panthers in Florida on April 3rd), the Jets can essentially negate the games in hand advantage held by the Panthers by winning both head-to-head meetings between the two clubs.

That might be easier said than done however as the Panthers have defeated the Jets three out of a possible four times this season. The Jets defeated the Panthers 4-3 in a shootout back on October 31st but since then the Panthers have defeated the Jets by scores of 5-2 , 4-3 (SO) and 3-1.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Jets have two players who are riding seven-game points streaks. Evander Kane has ten points (five goals, five assists) in his last seven games and Dustin Byfuglien has 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in his last seven games.

Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian will make his return to the line-up tonight for the Jets. Bogosian has missed the last seven games.

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get his second consecutive start in goal for the Jets tonight.

Projected Jets line combinations:

Goalie:

Ondrej Pavelec

Forwards:

1st: Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little- Blake Wheeler

2nd:  Evander Kane- Alexander Burmistrov- Kyle Wellwood

3rd:  Tanner Glass- Jim Slater- Chris Thorburn

4th:  Tim Stapleton- Nikolai Antropov -Antti Miettinen

Defence:

Dustin Byfuglien- Tobias Enstrom

Ron Hainsey-Zach Bogosian

Randy Jones-Mark Stuart

Offensive Leaders:

Florida Panthers: Kris Versteeg (22 goals, 27 assists, 49 points), Stephen Weiss (16 goals, 30 assists, 46 points),  Tomas Fleischmann (20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points)

Winnipeg JetsBlake Wheeler (13 goals, 38 assists, 51 points), Evander Kane (24 goals, 18 assists, 42 points), Dustin Byfuglien (10 goals, 32 assists, 42 points)

Injury Report:

Florida Panthers: Kris Versteeg (lower body), Tomas Kopecky (undisclosed), Matt Bradley (concussion), Scottie Upshall (hernia), Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Jacob Markstrom (knee)

Winnipeg Jets:  None

Who’s Next: The Jets next game is on Monday, March 5th, at home, against the Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m. CST).

QUICKIES…..Newly acquired defenseman Grant Clitsome (waivers) practiced with the Jets on Wednesday but he will not dress for the game tonight…..