A lot of you were cheering for a Jets victory a few hours ago. Now you’ll be hoping to see a different Jets be defeated. The Rangers face the Winnipeg Jets tonight for the second time this season, only this matchup will be at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers faced the Jets earlier in the season in a game that the Rangers won despite not playing well at all. That game ended their long road-trip, and since then the Rangers have picked up their play, going 3-1-1 in their last 5 (all at home). The Rangers have a chance to claim their fourth win in a row tonight against the Jets, and the lineups will look a bit different on both sides. Let’s look at some notes for the game.
Martin Biron- Lundqvist has not been at his best in his last two or three starts, and with the team playing its second game in as many days it makes sense to give him a breather and let Biron get a start. Biron also started the previous game against the Jets and only let in one goal on 28 shots and was the best player on the ice. A good decision by Tortorella. Biron will look to get his third win in as many starts.
Tobias Enstrom- The Jets will have to play without their best defenseman and one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Enstrom suffered an upper body injury and won’t be in the lineup for the Jets tonight. That is a huge hit for a Jets team that is struggling defensively as it is. His offensive contributions are irreplaceable as well. Enstrom had 50 pointslast season for the Thrashers and is a huge part of their power play. He had 3 points in 3 games against the Rangers last season.
The Power Play- Before last night the Rangers had 7 goals in their last 28 power play opportunities, which is a pretty high success rate. Last night, however, they only scored once – on a five vs. three – in nine opportunities. They have a chance to redeem themselves tonight. Only nine teams in the NHL have been shorthanded more than the Jets have, and their penalty kill is pretty miserable, ranked 22nd in the league. The power play could be a huge asset for the Rangers tonight.
First Period- Winnipeg is 2nd in the NHL in first period goals. The Rangers have actually been very strong in the first period the last three games, but prior to that they looked lost in the first period of games. The Rangers can not afford to start this game sleeping, because the easiest way for a struggling Jets team to beat us tonight is by gaining an early lead.
Drive To The Net- We already mentioned Enstrom, but the Jets will be without Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, and Randy Jones as well. The Jets’ defense was weak to begin with but they are incredibly thin on the blue line right now. With lesser defensemen in Jets uniforms tonight, the Rangers need to take advantage. The team needs to make it difficult on the Jets’ defensemen, and the easiest way to do that is to drive towards the net. It will either create a lot of scoring chances or it will result in penalties on the Jets. This is not the night for a perimeter game.
Ondrej Pavelec will be in goal for the Jets. His stats are not impressive but he has the potential to steal a game. The Rangers have beaten some very good teams recently but were not perfect against a struggling Montreal team, despite winning. Tonight should be an easy two points as long as they show up and play smart.