Benny and the Jets
by BMS on 01/07/12 at 05:44 PM ET
After two consecutive drubbings - a 7-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens followed by a 4-0 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs - the Winnipeg Jets head south of the border tonight to face the Buffalo Sabres, an equally middling team only three points behind the Jets in the standings. The Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last ten, and are coming off a 4-2 loss last night to the Carolina Hurricanes. As Lloyd says in Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
There’ll be some changes to the Jets lineup - centre Bryan Little draws back in after missing eight games with bruised foor, while Alexander Burmistrov will miss tonight’s tilt with a “mid-level” injury, which perhaps explains his less-than-torrid play as of late.
After ending 2011 on a high note, the Jets are showing signs very little has changed in the way of road games. There are forwards that have yet to make an impact this season - here I’m thinking of Antti Miettinen, Eric Fehr and Chris Thorburn, who have a combined six assists and are -19 in their 8, 16 and 40 games played, respectively. Thorburn’s only positive is that he can drop the gloves and try to provide a spark for the team if necessary, although he hasn’t exactly been successful in this department either.
On the blue line, Dustin Byfuglien remains the notably absent defenseman in the Jets’ lineup. His offensive jump and overall presence on the ice is badly needed if the Jets are going to be able to avoid an all-out slide in the Eastern Conference standings. Randy Jones is back, but did little to change the course of Thursday’s loss to the Leafs in his fifteen+ minutes of ice time.
Ondrej Pavelec has certainly played some great games this year, but Tuesday’s game against the Habs was one of those absolute stinkers he’s known for playing every once in a while. While it seemed he had found his groove in December, it seems that was more a symptom of playing so many games at the MTS Centre. Chris Mason has been rock-solid as a backup netminder, but like his counterpart failed to come up big against the Leafs.
And of course one can’t talk about the Jets without mentioning the fact that the NHLPA nixed the league’s proposed realignment for next year, meaning there’s a half-decent chance the Jets will remain in the Southeast division for the 2012-2013 season (providing there isn’t a lockout). This means another season of brutal travel for the Jets, albeit with more games against Eastern Conference teams against which they’d likely have a better chance of beating than a division stacked with Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, etc. For owner Mark Chipman’s measured take on the news, click here.
The Jets head to Boston to face the terrifying Bruins on Tuesday before returning home to face the San Jose Sharks, winners of their last three and seven of their last ten.
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About Benny and the Jets
Fifteen years ago, Ben's beloved Winnipeg Jets left town. He begrudgingly turned to the Montreal Canadiens for comfort and found none, and is now struggling to find a place in his heart for the Winnipeg Jets v2.0.
Ben is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer that writes a lot about wine and beer. Expect his son to be drafted into the NHL in 2025.