When: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Time: 7:30 p.m. CST
Where: MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Records: Winnipeg (14-12-4), Washington (15-13-1)
Television/Radio: CSN-MA,TSN-JETS / TSN 1290 Radio
The Story: We are well into December and the season is still young but it’s crystal clear that the Winnipeg Jets prefer playing at home. Tonight, the Jets (14-12-4) will look to win their sixth straight game at home when the struggling Washington Capitals (15-13-1) visit the MTS Centre.
Dating back to the Jets November 14th victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Jets have won eight of their last nine games at home and sport an excellent 10-4-0 overall home record. In contrast, the Jets have a record of 4-8-4 on the road and have failed to win two consecutive games in regulation this year away from the MTS Centre.
Should this be viewed as a problem for the Jets coaching staff? The simple answer is, no, not for now at least, as the Jets play their next five games at home, including tonight’s game, looking for points and looking to inch closer to the highly-coveted final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (The Jets currently sit in 10th place with 32 points, one more than Washington and trail New Jersey and Buffalo each by only one point).
The Capitals are a pretty desperate hockey team these days. It’s been two and a half weeks since Bruce Boudreau was fired and replaced by Dale Hunter as Washington’s new head coach but the results have been the same. The Caps have won only three of the seven games that Hunter has coached including an embarrassing 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night. Caps goaltender Tomas Vokoun was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots on Tuesday and it doesn’t appear that a coaching change has accomplished much.
So what’s gone wrong in the American capital? For starters, the Caps have been poor defensively and have surrendered 93 goals this season, good for 6th-worst in the league. To compound problems, Captain Alexander Ovechkin has been human, scoring only nine goals thus far (Jason Chimera has 11 goals). The Capitals simply didn’t count on the poor offensive play of Ovechkin and thus the whole deck of cards has seemingly collapsed underneath them.
The Jets have already played the Capitals twice this year, winning one and losing one. After defeating the Capitals 4-1 at home back on November 17th, the Jets were defeated six days later 4-3 in overtime on a crushing goal by the aforementioned Chimera. It was a hard fought game for the Jets and they were happy to walk away with a point.
The Jets line-up will remain relatively unchanged tonight. Tobias Enstrom is still at least a week away from returning to game action and newly acquired Jet Antti Miettinen will not play, despite landing in Winnipeg yesterday via Finland.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get the start again tonight as he remains red-hot between the pipes.
The offensive leaders for the Washington Capitals are Nicklas Backstrom (11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points), Alexander Ovechkin (nine goals, 12 assists, 21 points), Dennis Wideman (five goals, 15 assists, 20 points) and John Carlson (five goals, 15 assists, 20 points).
The offensive leaders for the Winnipeg Jets are Evander Kane (15 goals, nine assists, 24 points), Dustin Byfuglien (six goals, 15 assists, 21 points) and Blake Wheeler (two goals, 18 assists, 20 points).
We will be at practice today and will update the lines accordingly.
Who’s Next: The Jets next game is on Saturday, December 17th versus former Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks at 6:00 p.m. CST (CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada). The Jets have three homes games next week against the New York Islanders ( Tuesday, December 20th, 7:30 p.m.), Montreal Canadiens (Thursday, December 22nd, 7:30 p.m.) and Pittsburgh Penguins (Friday, December 23rd, 7:30 p.m.).
QUICKIES…..Ron Hainsey played over 22 minutes in his first game back from a lower-body injury including four and a half minutes on the power play…..Of the Jets first 30 games, only six were against Western Conference opponents…..Jets forward Bryan Little has 10 goals in his last 10 games….. In 26 games, Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Semin has six goals and five assists and is a Minus-9………. Dustin Byfuglien leads all NHL defensemen with 113 shots…..