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Game Day Preview: Jets @ Wild

The Winnipeg Jets have been idle since last Sunday’s 3-2 home loss to the Anaheim Ducks so they are anxious to get back on the winning track starting tonight when they visit the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

Jets @ Minn

When: Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time: 7:00 p.m. CST

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St.Paul, Minnesota

Records: Winnipeg (2-1-0), Minnesota (0-1-2)

Television/Radio: TSN-Jets, FS-N, FS-WI/TSN 1290 Radio

The Story:  The Winnipeg Jets have been idle since last Sunday’s 3-2 home loss to the Anaheim Ducks so they are anxious to get back on the winning track starting tonight when they visit the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

After having a mandatory day off Monday, the Jets spent Tuesday and Wednesday hard at work practising their overall team defense as the results of their first three games to this point have been to put it quite frankly, flattering. Despite winning two of their first three games, Winnipeg has been badly outshot by a cumulative margin of 108-77. Head Coach Claude Noel himself has admitted that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has been the equalizer early on this season and that he wants his team to be much better in their own zone.

Tonight’s game will be the first of five meetings between the Jets and Wild, who should form an intense Central Divison rivalry due to the close geographic proximity of the two cities (391 miles or 629 kilometres from Winnipeg to St. Paul). The Jets and Wild played twice during the preseason with Minnesota taking both games, including a 4-1 victory in Winnipeg.

Minnesota will have two key players out of the starting line-up tonight. 21-year-old forward Charlie Coyle is out for the next three to four weeks with a knee injury that was suffered during last Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks while goaltender Niklas Backstrom is day-to-day with a knee injury that was suffered in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators. Backup goaltender Josh Harding finished Tuesday’s game and is expected to start in net for the Wild tonight.

The Wild, led by Captain Mikko Koivu and $98 million men Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, are still finding their identity and have still not taken the next step in becoming a legitimate playoff contender. To their credit, the Wild did make the playoffs for the first time in five years last year but they were in the weakest division in the NHL and were easily disposed of by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Minnesota will be a good test for the Jets who will be competing with likes of the Wild, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators for one of the coveted playoff berths in the West.

There shouldn’t be any major line-up changes for the Jets tonight. Chris Thorburn did not make the trip to St. Paul due to a lower-body injury which means Anthony Peluso will most likely dress again tonight for the Jets. If Peluso doesn’t start, expect Matt Halischuk to play his first regular season game of the year.

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in goal for the Jets tonight.

Projected Winnipeg Jets Line Combinations:

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi-Olli Jokinen-Michael Frolik
James Wright-Jim Slater-Anthony Peluso

Tobias Enstrom-Zach Bogosian
Grant Clitsome-Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart-Jaocb Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec
Al Montoya

Healthy Scratches: Matt Halischuk, Paul Postma

Projected Minnesota Wild Line Combinations:

Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter
Jason Pominville-Mikael Granlund-Dany Heatley
Matt Cooke–Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine
Zenon Konopka- Stephane Veilleux- Torrey Mitchell

Jonas Brodin-Ryan Suter
Keith Ballard- Jared Spurgeon
Matthew Dumba-Clayton Stoner

Josh Harding

Darcy Kuemper

Healthy Scratches: Marco Scandella, Carson McMillan, Nate Prosser

Injury Report:

Minnesota Wild: Niklas Backstrom (knee, day-to-day), Charlie Coyle (lower body), Mike Rupp (knee)

Winnipeg Jets:  Chris Thorburn (lower body, questionable)

QUICKIES…Winnipeg Jets Face-off Statistics: Olli Jokinen (26/55, 47.3%), Jim Slater (15/33, 45.4%), Bryan Little (21/57, 36.8%), Mark Scheifele (12/38, 31.6%….. Minnesota Wild Face-off Statistics: Mikko Koivu (46/77, 59.7%), Kyle Brodziak (29/49, 59.2%), Mikael Granlund (7/19, 36.8%), Charlie Coyle (10/22, 45.4%)