WINNIPEG – Dustin Byfuglien will be a game-time decision tonight as the Winnipeg Jets face off with the San Jose Sharks (7:00pm CT, TSN3).
Byfuglien has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury sustained on Mar. 4 against the Ottawa Senators. No. 33 took part in today’s pre-game skate and was paired with Adam Pardy, while Tyler Myers – who missed last week’s road contest against the Florida Panthers – was back on his usual post alongside Toby Enstrom.
Head Coach Paul Maurice confirmed that Myers will play tonight.
Here are the projected forward line combinations and defence pairings based on the morning skate:
Andrew Ladd - Adam Lowry - Michael Frolik Drew Stafford - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler Jiri Tlusty - Jim Slater - Lee Stempniak Chris Thorburn - Eric O’Dell - Matt Halischuk
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba Adam Pardy - Dustin Byfuglien
Ondrej Pavelec will get the start in goal – his second straight after recording 15 saves in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pavelec is 14-14-7 on the year, along with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 39 appearances. The 27-year-old has stopped 37 of his last 39 shots.
“With the decisions that we’re making for our lineup now, we’re not going to go too far back into our memory,” Maurice said. “It’s about how you played the last game. He did very well; played very well. He made a couple saves that you can’t appreciate unless you’ve watched the game a couple times.
“He’s been connected to this team for a long time. He wants to be a part of it. That’s why the St. Louis goal was a stinger for him, because he played really well otherwise. It’s not an individual thing – it hurt the team and that’s what was hard for him. But that game in Tampa was a big game for him. He was a driver in us getting two huge points. He gets to hang his hat on that and build some confidence from it. “
Pavelec has a 2.20 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage lifetime vs. San Jose.
This is the third and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Sharks, who trail the Jets by four points for third in the Western Conference Wild Card, won the previous two by a combined score of 6-2 (3-0 on Oct. 11 and 3-2 on Jan. 5).
“We saw them so long ago early in the year – that game’s forgotten – then the next game in here, that was the night we had five of our D out of the lineup,” Maurice said. “Where we’ve struggled with San Jose is how much ice we give them to play on. We’ve been good in the past five or six games of playing a pretty tight game and that’s going to be our focus here tonight.”
“That’s the plan,” Jets forward Drew Stafford added. “We had a heck of an effort (in Tampa) to get back on track, so we want to continue that tonight.”
Stafford has goals in back-to-back games and is now up to five (for eight points) in 13 games with the Jets.
“Especially with how the road trip went for us – we felt we could have stolen a few more points – but we have to make up for it at home starting with a big one tonight. They’re a desperate team and they have a sense of urgency in their game as well. I expect a very fast, very physical game tonight.”
The Jets come into tonight’s game one point back of the Los Angeles Kings for the second of two wild-card playoff spots.
“It’s kind of fun,” Stafford said of the playoff race. “It’s on TV all the time and we have the reports and stuff here in the locker room. It’s a constant reminder of how tight it is and it leads to more desperation and a greater sense of urgency.”
Antti Niemi will get the start in goal for the Sharks, who are kicking off a season-defining, seven-game road trip. Niemi is 27-19-7 on the year, along with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.