© Geoff Brookes
The Winnipeg Jets now begin a home stand that spans 10 games and 3 weeks. In fact, the road trip that follows is just 2 games on consecutive nights, so 12 of the next 14 games are at home, between January 30 and March 2. So, there will be just 2 road games in over 1 month!
Thankfully, the game-free breaks in January provided time for players like Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev to recover from their injuries. Lowry should be in the lineup versus Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Tanev has already returned to game action, while Scheifele is now practicing with a non-contact jersey.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they will be without Jacob Trouba for most of the remaining games. He’s out for about 6 to 8 weeks. Worse, it is said to be a high ankle sprain, which is prone to re-injury if the athlete returns to game action too soon. At least Trouba *should* be ready for the playoffs. Kulikov is still recovering from the hit that he took in the game against the Sharks. Chiarot and Poolman will both play as the third D pairing against Tampa, with Morrissey/Myers and Enstrom/Byfuglien making up the other defence pairings.
Steve Mason is still recovering from his second concussion of this hockey season. In his absence, Michael Hutchinson looks to be the back-up down the stretch (behind #1 goalie Connor Hellebuyck), and is going to be the starter against the Lightning. Hellebuyck will likely start most of the games in this home stand, including Thursday (vs. Vegas) and Saturday (vs. Colorado)
Out of the Jets 32 remaining games, 20 are at home, where their record so far is 17-3-1. The Jets are tied with Vegas for the fewest regulation losses at home. If the Jets can keep up their momentum at Bell MTS Place, that would be a massive help for a good finish to the regular schedule.
Here are my 4 keys for a successful February for the Jets:
- Big Buff needs to play sound defensive hockey. This team doesn’t really rely on Dustin Byfuglien for goals and assists the way that they did a few years ago. Instead, the Jets need the big man to play a strong physical game without taking too many chances.
- Connor Hellebuyck needs to stay hot in net. Goaltending is always important in hockey. The Jets all-star goalie needs to keep up the save percentage that’s hovered around .920.
- The Jets need the Lowry line to keep playing sound hockey. The solid 2-way play of this line has kept the puck in the other team’s zone for long stretches of games. The in-game benefits of this kind of cycling, possession hockey are huge.
- Avoid further injuries to key players. If the Jets are going to be successful, they need to get healthy, and avoid losing any more key players for more than a game or two here and there.
Key game in the home stand – Thursday February 1 against Vegas. If the Jets should lose to Tampa, they’ll need a win against Vegas in order to keep up their overall forward momentum at home.
Point prediction – 7 wins in 10 games, for 14 points. I can see the Jets losing against either the Tampa game or the Vegas game, but not both. I can see them losing 1 of their 2 games against Colorado, but not both. A loss to either the Rangers or Washington is possible, as both Eastern teams are in serious fights of their own in the Metropolitan division. I see the Jets getting stronger as the home stand continues through mid-February.
Go Jets Go!