Carolina Hurricanes (9-17-4) at Winnipeg Jets (12-11-4)
MTS Centre, 8:30 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN-Jets
Zone starts are something that I pay attention to every game but with Tomas Kaberle being traded to Montreal, I'm going to be keeping an extra eye on them now because I'm curious to see how Kirk Muller uses the defense. Next to Derek Joslin, Kaberle played the easiest ice-time by far and someone is going to have to take over that role but I'm not 100% sure who will. My first thought is Justin Faulk because he's been getting manhandled against tough competition the past few weeks and I think a guy with an offensive-skillset like him should get minutes like that. Another possibility is Jay Harrison when he gets back from injury or even Jamie McBain but the coaching staff appears to like him with Tim Gleason as the tough minutes pair. Jaroslav Spacek is apparently in the lineup tonight and he was playing Kaberle-like minutes in Montreal so it could be him too. The possibilities are endless and tonight we're facing a team with a coach that pays very close attention to zone starts in the Winnipeg Jets.
Lines, defense pairings, analysis & more after the jump
Tlusty - Staal - Dwyer
Skinner - Jokinen - Ruutu
Ponikarovsky - Sutter - LaRose
Nodl - Brent - Stewart
Gleason - McBain
Spacek - Faulk
Joslin - Allen
Ladd - Antropov - Wellwood
Kane - Little - Wheeler
Glass - Slater - Thorburn
Klingberg - Burmistrov - Jaffray
Byfuglien - Oduya
Stuart - Bogosian
Jones - Flood
Getting to know the Jets
Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to the head-to-head report from the last time we played the Jets, but it wasn't a pretty game. I remember that much. Instead, we're going to discuss how well Winnipeg's head coach Claude Noel has been deploying his forwards this season. A look at the team's zone starts show that he's been burying their third line with a ton of defensive workload and why shouldn't he? Glass, Slater and Thorburn aren't exactly offensvie stalwarts and there's no reason to protect them, so this has freed up easier ice-time for players like Evander Kane, Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov. Uncoincidentally, these three are among the Jets leading scorers right now. They've also had great possession play from their main two way forwards; Ladd, Little and Wheeler so there's a lot of good pieces on this Winnipeg team. The one weakness is that their third line has posted some brutal possession metrics even with the numerous d-zone starts and their fourth line consists of fringe NHL players sans Burmistrov.
The Jets are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and have been teetering back and forth as an below/above average team when it comes to driving the play. Right now, their team Fenwick is sititng at 48.1% with the score tied, which is in the bottom-half of the league and a bit lower than it was when we played them a couple weeks ago. I decided to look at their hot streak and while this is a small sample size, they've been getting outplayed at even strength during this time but they are shooting at over 11% with the score tied so there's a good chance that this hot streak the Jets are on is all percentages.
- Joni Pitkanen was sent back to Raleigh today which means that the injury he sustained against Calgary could be a lot worse than we thought. Get ready for more ugly looking powerplay sequences? Although, we scored twice against the Oilers without him so who knows...
- It's funny that I said the Jets hot streak is all percentages because earlier in the year, they weren't getting any luck at all. Mason and Pavelec couldn't stop anything and there was a time period where Blake Wheeler went a month without a goal despite being one of their better players at getting shots on net. The hockey gods are cruel in some ways.
- Of course, the Canes have no sympathy for teams with bad luck right now because they've been getting a ton of it. Alexei Ponikarovsky has been on the worst end of it as he's leading the team in corsi relative, has been on ice for only 9 Carolina goals 5v5 and 18 of the opponent's. Why is this? Oh, just a combination of a horrible 4.95 on-ice shooting percentage and the goalies not being able to stop the puck when he's on (.894 on-ice Sv%). Think that his numbers could be a lot better than they are right now.
- Chad LaRose is also in that department as he's been on ice for only 10 5v5 Carolina goals and 23 of the opponent's. He's got the same on-ice save percentage as Poni and an even worse shooting percentage. He's also right behind him on the corsi relative ranking. Oh, and he's also got 8 goals and 17 points, so his numbers could potentially be way higher.
- I'm setting the over/under on how many times Tripp Tracy refers to the Jets as "Atlanta" at four tonight.
- Chris Mason has started seven games against Carolina and has a .954 save percentage in those games. Overall, he has a career save percentage of .911 and is at .906 this season......he's gotta regress against the Canes some time, right? Why not tonight?
Enjoy the game and let's go Canes.