When: Saturday, March 24, 2012
Time: 6:00 p.m. CST
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Records: Winnipeg Jets (35-31-8), Nashville Predators (42-24-8)
Television/Radio: CBC,FS-TN (HD) / TSN 1290 Radio
The Story: The Winnipeg Jets close out their three-game road trip tonight against the Nashville Predators in yet another must-win situation.
The Jets defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime on Friday night thanks to Tim Stapleton’s 10th goal of the season and are now four points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but the clock is ticking on the 2011’12 NHL Regular Season and the Jets cannot let many more points slip away.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Jets remain in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, four points behind the 9th place Buffalo Sabres (82 points) and four points behind the 8th place Washington Capitals (82 points). The Jets have a game in hand on both the Sabres and Capitals but Washington has the most regulation wins of the three teams (Washington has 35 regulation wins, the Jets have 31 regulation wins and the Sabres have 29 regulation wins).
Including tonight, the Jets have eight games left to play in the regular season, five of which are on the road. The Jets will return home after tonight’s game to play their next two games. The Jets play the Ottawa Senators on Monday, March 26th (7:30 p.m. CST) followed by a game against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, March 28th (6:00 p.m. CST). After that, the Jets will play four consecutive games on the road starting with back-to-back games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning beginning on Friday, March 30th.
Tonight’s game between the Jets and Predators (92 points, 5th in the Western Conference) will be the first and only meeting of the season between the two teams. Nashville defeated Winnipeg 4-3 back in September during the National Hockey League’s exhibition season.
The Predators enter tonight’s game on a two-game losing streak and with the sour taste of a 5-1 Pittsburgh Penguins defeat in their mouths. Nashville has given up 11 goals in their last two games and have the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks (winners of five games in a row) breathing down their necks.
The Predators will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh consecutive season but there have been questions surrounding their overall depth heading into the postseason.
The issue may have already been addressed however. Nashville announced earlier this week that former 1st round draft pick Alexander Radulov (25 years old) would indeed be returning to Nashville after a four-year hiatus in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Radulov, who had 95 points over his first two seasons in the NHL, played on Thursday night against Pittsburgh and scored a goal in his first game back.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start for the Jets tonight. It will be Pavelec’s 11th consecutive start. Pekka Rinne is expected to start for the Predators.
Projected Jets line combinations:
1st: Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little- Blake Wheeler
2nd: Evander Kane- Alexander Burmistrov- Kyle Wellwood
3rd: Tanner Glass- Jim Slater- Antti Miettinen
4th: Tim Stapleton – Ben Maxwell – Spencer Machacek
Dustin Byfuglien- Tobias Enstrom
Ron Hainsey- Zach Bogosian
Randy Jones–Mark Stuart
Nashville Predators: Martin Erat (18 goals, 39 assists, 57 points), David Legwand (18 goals, 30 assists, 48 points), Mike Fisher (23 goals, 23 assists, 46 points)
Winnipeg Jets: Blake Wheeler (17 goals, 43 assists, 60 points), Evander Kane (28 goals, 23 assists, 51 points), Dustin Byfuglien (11 goals, 36 assists, 47 points)
Nashville Predators: Colin Wilson (groin), Roman Josi (upper body)
Winnipeg Jets: Chris Thorburn (upper body), Eric Fehr (upper body), Nikolai Antropov (lower body)
Who’s Next: The Jets next game is on Monday, March 26th, at home, against the Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. CST).
QUICKIES…..Tim Stapleton has two goals and three assists in his last four games….. Spencer Machacek has one goal and four assists in three games since being recalled from the St.John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League…..Pekka Rinne has started 66 out of a possible 74 games this season…..Join The Illegal Curve crew at The Cheer Bar & Grill tonight (corner of Osborne and Stradbrook) for the Jets/Predators game starting at 6:00 p.m. CST……