When: Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Time: 6:30 p.m. CST
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
Records: Winnipeg (19-14-5), Montreal Canadiens (14-18-7)
Television/Radio: RDS (HD),TSN/ TSN 1290 Radio
The Story: The calendar year has turned over to 2012 which means the Winnipeg Jets regular season continues tonight with their first game of the New Year against the Montreal Canadiens. Tonight’s game marks the beginning of a four-game, nine-day road trip for the Jets and also a six-week stretch that will see the team play 15 of their next 21 games on the road. The road-heavy schedule for the Jets comes after a favourable December that saw Winnipeg take points in 10 of 12 games at home (9-2-1).
Heading into tonight’s match-up with les Habitants, the Jets sit in 9th place with 43 points, just one point behind the 8th place New Jersey Devils and the final playoff spot and tied in points with the 10th place Toronto Maple Leafs, who have the same amount of wins but have played one more game. The Jets will play the Leafs tomorrow (in a rematch of Saturday night’s New Year’s Eve game, a 3-2 Jets win) and will then meet the Sabres on Saturday night. Three games in four nights on the road means that points won’t come easy for the Jets, who have struggled significantly on the road thus far (5-8-4).
The last time the Jets played the Canadiens was back on December 22nd in Winnipeg, a dominating 4-0 win that came in the middle of the language controversy involving Canadiens head coach Randy Cunneyworth. Since that win, the Jets and Canadiens have gone in opposite directions. Since their last meeting, the Jets have won three of four games while the Canadiens have lost two of three games. Going back further, the Jets are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games while the Habs are 3-7-0.
Despite the recent trials and tribulations of each team, tonight’s game should be much closer than the last contest between the two teams. Winnipeg and Montreal have played each other twice now (The Canadiens beat the Jets 5-1 back on October 9th, Winnipeg’s home and season opener), with each team taking one game at the MTS Centre. With tonight’s game and one more coming up on February 5th, both in Montreal, the Jets and Canadiens are getting familiar with each other and have each shared a night off, er, a poor game.
Bryan Little will not be back in the line-up tonight for the Jets but he has been practicing with the team in recent days and may return at some point on the current road trip. Little has missed the last six games with a foot injury. Jets centre Jim Slater will be in the lineup tonight for the Jets. Slater has the missed the last two games with a rib injury. Randy Jones will also be in the line-up tonight, according to Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press. Jones’ return means that Mark Flood will likely be a healthy scratch tonight.
It is not yet known who will start in goal for the Jets, but there is a strong chance that the Jets will use two different goaltenders in the two upcoming back-to-back games.
Projected line combinations:
1st: Evander Kane-Tim Stapleton- Blake Wheeler
2nd: Andrew Ladd- Nikolai Antropov- Kyle Wellwood
3rd: Tanner Glass- Jim Slater- Antti Miettinen
4th: Chris Thorburn- Alexander Burmistrov-Eric Fehr
Ron Hainsey- Tobias Enstrom
Zach Bogosian-Johnny Oduya
Mark Stuart-Randy Jones
Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec (eight goals, 21 assists, 29 points), Erik Cole (16 goals, 11 assists, 27 points) and Max Pacioretty (11 goals, 15 assists, 26 points).
Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane (18 goals, 11 assists, 29 points), Blake Wheeler (6 goals, 22 assists, 28 points) and Dustin Byfuglien (6 goals, 18 assists, 24 points).
Montreal Canadiens: Brian Gionta (lower body), Scott Gomez (lower body), Andrei Markov (knee) and Ryan White (lower body).
Winnipeg Jets: Byfuglien (knee) is day-to-day for Winnipeg. Derek Meech (lower body) is day-to-day.
Who’s Next: The Jets are right back at it tomorrow with a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (6:00 p.m. CST). The Jets finish their nine day, four-game road trip with games against the Buffalo Sabres this Saturday (January 7, 6:00 p.m. CST) and Boston Bruins (Tuesday, January 10, 6:00 p.m. CST)
QUICKIES…..21-year-old Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian is averaging 23 minutes and 56 seconds of ice time per game. That is 2nd on the Jets and ranks him 27th overall in the National Hockey League. Tobias Enstrom leads the Jets at 24:03 which is 23rd in the NHL…..Mark Stuart has 48 penalty minutes this season, most on the Jets……Kyle Wellwood has two penalty minutes in 38 games this season…..Join The Illegal Curve Crew all week at The Cheer Bar & Grill (corner of Osborne and Stradbrook) for all four Jets away games…..