AT THE MORNING SKATE
WINNIPEG – Michael Hutchinson will make his second straight start as the Winnipeg Jets face off with the Edmonton Oilers tonight at MTS Centre.
Head Coach Paul Maurice had been alternating his goaltenders on a consistent basis for quite some time now, but an upcoming ‘break’ in the schedule has afforded him the luxury of looking at the rotation at a bit differently.
“For me, it was more a function of our schedule than anything else. It was also working, so we stuck with it,” he said. “We’re going to have five full practices over the next four weeks. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but for us, that’s an awful lot, which means one goalie might get to play more. Which one, I don’t know. … But I really like the fight in Hutchy’s game.”
In his last outing, the 24-year-old made 25 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping all four shooters in the shootout, backstopping the Jets to a 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Hutchinson is on a personal two-game winning streak and will be looking to improve on his 16-7-3 record, 2.24 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
At the other end of the rink, the Oilers will counter with Viktor Fasth between the pipes.
Fasth is 6-15-2 on the year and was pulled his last appearance, allowing three goals on 15 shots in what resulted in a 7-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“They’re going to come in here real focused,” Maurice said. They had a big win in Montreal (4-3 in overtime on Feb. 12), then had a tough night in Ottawa. Because of the change, they’ll address it and they’ll be ready to roll right out of the gate here tonight.
“It will be a good test here.”
This is the second of three meetings between these two teams this season. The Jets lead the season series 1-0 after capturing a 3-2 overtime win back on Dec. 3 at MTS Centre.
Jacob Trouba led the way that night, recording a goal and two assists. In four career games against the Oilers, Trouba has four goals and seven points.
“Maybe it’s luck. I don’t try to do anything different (against them),” he laughed
“We’ve got to worry about our defensive game here tonight. They’ve got a lot of skill up front and they’ll definitely be heard if you make some mistakes.”
It’s been another tough season for the Oilers, who have only 16 wins in 57 games and are well on their way to a ninth consecutive year out of the playoffs. The team has played better under new head coach Todd Nelson, however, and is looking to finish up a season-long six-game road trip with a .500 record.
“We’re not too far removed from a pretty extensive losing streak and we’ve just now rediscovered our game,” Jets winger Blake Wheeler said when asked about the possibility of taking the Oilers lightly.
“It’s too fresh in everyone’s memory to have a letdown here tonight.”
Wheeler will line up alongside Mathieu Perreault (LW) and Mark Scheifele (C) tonight. The addition of Drew Stafford, who scored his first as a Jet before adding the shootout winner over the Red Wings, has given the club options on the right side.
The full projected forward line combinations and defence pairings are as follows:
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Drew Stafford
Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry - Michael Frolik
TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso
Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Myers recorded pair of assists in almost 23 minutes of ice time the other night in Detroit.
“You can see that they’re excited about being here and this chance to play with our team," Wheeler said. … "Having been part of a trade before, getting on the score sheet makes you breathe a bit easier. You automatically feel better about yourself and better about your contribution to your new team.”
Added Maurice: “It hasn’t been quiet. They’re not off on their own. They look like they’ve been around this group for a while. It’s been a seamless fit in a very short period of time.”
The Oilers, meanwhile, will be without several key figures up front and may dress only 11 forwards. Taylor Hall and Matt Hendricks are both out with ankle injuries, while Rob Klinkhammer is back home with his wife, awaiting the birth of his first child.
Boyd Gordon (back) did not take part in the morning skate and is a game-time decision.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com