When: Saturday, March 16, 2013
Time: 6:00 p.m. CST
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Records: Winnipeg Jets (14-11-2 – 8th in East), Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-1 – 7th in East)
Television/Radio: CBC/ TSN 1290
The Story: The Winnipeg Jets are in Toronto tonight to play the Maple Leafs on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada with an opportunity to move further up the Eastern Conference standings.
Following Thursday night’s 3-1 win over the New York Rangers, the Jets are in 8th place in the East with 30 points, one point behind the 7th place Toronto Maple Leafs and one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold down 3rd place in the East because they lead the Southeast Division.
Winnipeg has won four of their last five games and have suddenly become one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League. The Jets have won six of their last nine road games and seven of their last 10 games overall, surging at just the right time in this shortened 2013 regular season. The Jets play the Ottawa Senators tomorrow afternoon in Ottawa, then return home for four games next week against Boston, Washington (twice) and Tampa Bay. Looking long term, the Jets play 11 of their next 16 games at home where they have a record of 6-6-0.
The play of netminder Ondrej Pavelec has been a major factor in Winnipeg’s recent success. Pavelec has started in 24 games so far this season and has been in net for six of Winnipeg’s last seven wins to improve his overall record on the season to 11-11-2 with a save percentage of .905. More importantly perhaps are Pavelec’s numbers over the past four games. In his last four games, Pavelec has a save percentage of .941 with a goals against average of 1.75. It is no surprise that the Jets have gotten points in all four of the games, with the lone loss coming last weekend to New Jersey in the shootout.
At the other end of the ice, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a bit of a tailspin. The Leafs were defeated 5-2 by the Jets Tuesday night and then followed that game up with a 3-1 loss the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice. Toronto has lost four straight games and six of their last 10 games to fall to 7th place in the East. A major problem for the Maple Leafs, like countless other teams in the NHL, is the lack of secondary scoring they are receiving. Top scorers Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk have led the way offensively all year, including as of late, but players such as Mikhail Grabovski (0 points in his last three games) and Nikolai Kulemin (0 points in his last four games) have been held off the scoresheet.
Enter Joffrey Lupul. The 29-year-old left winger will return to the line-up for the first time since fracturing his forearm in practice seven weeks ago. Lupul has not played since January 23rd against the Pittsburgh Penguins and will be a welcome addition for a Leafs squad that can certainly use an offensive boost.
This is the third and final meeting of the season between the Leafs and Jets this year with the season series tied at one game apiece.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get the start in goal for the Winnipeg Jets.
Follow @IllegalCurve on Twitter leading up to today’s game.
Projected Jets line combinations (subject to change before game time):
1st: Andrew Ladd- Bryan Little- Blake Wheeler
2nd: Evander Kane-Nikolai Antropov- Kyle Wellwood
3rd: James Wright– Olli Jokinen- Antti Miettinen
4th: Eric Tangradi- Patrice Cormier – Chris Thorburn
Ron Hainsey- Zach Bogosian
Dustin Byfuglien- Grant Clitsome
Derek Meech- Mark Stuart
Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel (9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points), Nazem Kadri (11 goals, 14 assists, 25 points), James van Riemsdyk (14 goals, 7 assists, 21 points)
Winnipeg Jets: Andrew Ladd (14 goals, 12 assists, 26 points), Blake Wheeler (10 goals, 12 assists, 22 points) Evander Kane (11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points).
Toronto Maple Leafs: None
Winnipeg Jets: Tobias Enstrom (shoulder, week to week), Zach Redmond (leg), Anthony Peluso (hand), Jim Slater (upper body)
Who’s Next: The Jets play tomorrow, Sunday, March 17th, against the Ottawa Senators (4:00 p.m. CST) before returning home for four straight games: Tuesday, March 19th vs. Boston (7:00 p.m. CST), Thursday, March 21st vs. Washington (7:00 p.m. CST), Friday, March 22nd vs. Washington (6:00 p.m. CST) and Sunday, March 24th against Tampa Bay (7:00 p.m. CST)
QUICKIES…..Andrew Ladd‘s 14 goals this season are tied for 6th-most in the NHL….. Phil Kessel has 9 points in his last five games (4 goals, 5 assists)….. The Jets as a team have accumulated 19 fighting majors this season, which is 9th most in the NHL (Source:hockeyfights.com)…..Toronto ranks 1st overall in team fighting majors with 27….. Chris Thorburn has been in six fights this year…..Leafs forward Colton Orr has been in 7 fights this year…..