When: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Time: 6:00 p.m. CST
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York
Records: Winnipeg Jets (5-8-1 – 14th in East), Buffalo Sabres (6-9-1 – 12th in East)
Television/Radio: MSG-B, TSN-JETS/ TSN 1290
The Story: The Winnipeg Jets kick off a five-game road trip tonight in Buffalo against the Sabres looking to snap a season high three-game losing streak.
The Jets dropped three straight games at home this week (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston) and now find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings looking up to many teams that have quickly piled up the points on them.
Winnipeg continues to struggle offensively as they have only scored more than three goals in a game three times this season (14 games played). The Jets rank 21st in the National Hockey League in goals for this year averaging 2.50 goals per game and are ranked 25th in the league in goals against (3.21 goals per game).
Starting in net with Ondrej Pavelec (3-8-1, 3.14 GAA, .889 Save Percentage), the Jets simply have to be better or they may find themselves completely out of the playoff race by the time the month of March rolls around. The Jets have relied too much this season on their defenseman to carry the offensive load and if that doesn’t change it will be tough to win on most nights.
Although the Jets have received decent offensive production from Captain Andrew Ladd (12 points in 14 games), RW Blake Wheeler (11 points in 14 games) and LW Evander Kane (11 points in 14 games), the Jets desperately need more offensive production from the likes of Olli Jokinen (4 points in 14 games), Nikolai Antropov (4 points in 14 games) and Kyle Wellwood (2 points in 14 games).
The Sabres head into tonight’s game against the Jets losers of three of their last four games. Buffalo dropped a 4-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night which was immediately followed by a post-game media outburst from goaltender Ryan Miller who was unhappy with his teammates.
Buffalo’s top line of Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Jason Pominville has been excellent so far this season (53 combined points) but like the Jets, the Sabres have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net, currently ranked 26th overall in the NHL surrendering 3.38 goals per game.
Today’s game is the first of three meetings between the Jets and Sabres this year. The next meeting between the two teams is on Tuesday, April 9th in Winnipeg (7:00 p.m. CST). The third and final meeting of the season will be in Buffalo on Tuesday, April 22nd (6:00 p.m. CST).
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in goal for the Jets tonight.
Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for the Sabres tonight.
Follow @IllegalCurve on Twitter leading up to tonight’s game.
Projected Jets line combinations (subject to change* before game time):
*as of Jets skate this morning
1st: Andrew Ladd- Bryan Little- Blake Wheeler
2nd: Evander Kane- Nikolai Antropov- Alexander Burmistrov
3rd: Eric Tangradi– Olli Jokinen- Kyle Wellwood
4th: James Wright- Jim Slater – Chris Thorburn
Ron Hainsey- Dustin Byfuglien
Zach Bogosian- Mark Stuart
Paul Postma- Grant Clitsome
Buffalo Sabres: Thomas Vanek (12 goals, 13 assists, 25 points), Jason Pominville (6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points), Cody Hodgson (7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points)
Winnipeg Jets: Tobias Enstrom (2 goals, 11 assists, 13 points), Andrew Ladd (7 goals, 5 assists, 12 points), Blake Wheeler (4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points)
Buffalo Sabres: Ville Leino (hip), Andrej Sekera (upper leg), Zemgus Girgensons (head)
Winnipeg Jets: Antti Miettinen (upper body), Al Montoya (lower body), Tobias Enstrom (shoulder)
Who’s Next: The Jets play the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, February 21, 6:00 p.m. CST. After that, the Jets play the Philadelphia Flyers (Saturday, February, 23, 12:00 p.m. CST), the New Jersey Devils (Sunday, February 24, 4:00 p.m. CST) the New York Rangers (Tuesday, February 26, 6:00 p.m. CST)