EDMONTON, Alberta - With Thursday’s loss to the Boston Bruins behind them, the Winnipeg Jets (24-27-3) look to bounce back tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton (22-29-5) won the season’s first meeting between the two teams 3-1 back on Dec. 21. The Jets fired a season-high 45 shots at Oilers’ goaltender Cam Talbot that night, but had their four-game win streak over the Oilers snapped.
Laurent Brossoit will get the start for Edmonton tonight (Talbot has an illness). Similarly, the Jets will have a different goaltender in goal tonight than they had back in that December meeting.
Ondrej Pavelec will make his first start since Nov. 21 when Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes collided with the 28-year-old goaltender in the second period of a 5-2 Jets win.
Head coach Paul Maurice applauded the work Pavelec has put in to get back between the pipes.
“He’s worked awful hard. It’s a real long process for a guy like that that’s used to playing most nights to sit out almost three months with a tough injury. Pushed him really hard, and to his credit he’s worked real hard,” said Maurice. “He’s in good shape and he’s moving quick, and I know he’s excited to get back in the net.”
Bryan Little, who leads the Jets in goals with 17 this season, says getting Pavelec back is a boost for the team.
“Any time you lose a key guy like that to a long-term injury it’s going to create a bit of a spark when he gets back in the line-up,” said Little. “You want to play well in front of him to give him a chance to play well back there.”
Pavelec had a record of 5-6-1 with a .905 save percentage before he was injured in November. The native of Kladno, Czech Republic doesn’t have an easy test for his first game back either.
The Oilers are coming off a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, a night that saw Connor McDavid score twice and add three assists for five points, helping line mate Jordan Eberle to his first NHL hat trick.
“He’s a very dynamic player. Any time you play against guys like that all you can do is take away time and space and limit the time he has the puck,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “The best way to do that is to make him play in his own end and control the play as much as we can.”
Jets defenceman Tyler Myers hopes to use the long reach his 6’8” frame gives him to help contain McDavid.
“From what I can tell is he’s got a tremendous amount of speed and skill. You want to be aware of when he’s on the ice. Not just him, that whole line they seem to be clicking pretty well,” said Myers. “It’s just a matter of containing, limiting the time and space, and focusing on controlling the puck ourselves.”
Doing so will go a long way to extending Winnipeg’s success on the road to six games. Over the past five, the Jets are 4-0-1.
“I think we just relax a bit more on the road. I think we play a simpler game,” said Little. “We just come to the rink ready to work. It’s that simple.”
And with the Jets beginning a four-game road trip tonight, a win to kick things off would give them a valuable two points in the standings. Going into action tonight, the Jets are eight points back of Nashville for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
“For us right now we’re still in the hunt, and that’s really what we’ve been focusing on. Trying to put together a little run, some consistency in our game,” said Myers. “It just goes game by game. We come out tonight, play hard, and we try to get two points closer.
“We know it’s getting down to the end here, and we have to try and make a little bigger push than we have as of late. At the same time we know we’re right there, and it’s possible. We just have to keep pushing.”
Puck drop is 9 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com