NEWARK, New Jersey -- The Winnipeg Jets (1-0-0) have been in this position before.
Last night’s 6-2 win in Boston to open the season is the second straight time the Jets won their season opener. That part of the script the team is happy with. It’s the next chapter they’re looking to re-write.
“Similar to our last opening night (scoring six goals), and we lost four straight after that one,” said captain Andrew Ladd. “We have to keep our heads level here and realize that we have a lot better. We didn’t play a great game, like I said we got better, but there’s still a ton of room for improvement.”
Bryan Little, who played 17:06 last night at TD Garden, agrees with Ladd, saying the Jets need to keep a level head.
“There’s still some room for improvement. It might have been 6-2, but it wasn’t a perfect game for us and we know it,” said Little. “We made some mistakes that Pavs had to bail us out of. We know there’s room for improvement and things we can get better at.”
Tonight marks the second time in as many nights that the Jets will serve as the opponent during a home opener. The 2015-2016 New Jersey Devils will be introduced to their fans for the first time tonight, fresh off naming defenceman Andy Greene their captain this morning.
The Devils line-up features two players Jets fans will be familiar with from last season’s push to the playoffs: Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty. Stempniak will be on the top line with Michael Cammalleri and Travis Zajac.
“It seems that they’re playing pretty much the same game as they used to play. I know their neutral zone has reverted back to what was originally the New Jersey neutral zone,” said coach Paul Maurice. “They’re going to play hard, they’re going to have really good sticks, they’re going to get good goaltending, and they’re going to play a good team game. That description works for the last 15-20 years in New Jersey, and that’s what our expectation will be.”
The Jets will go with the same line-up as last night, except Michael Hutchinson will get his first start of the season, after Ondrej Pavelec turned away 29 shots in Boston.
“(Pavelec) played really well last night. It’s good for a goaltender to keep some confidence after a real solid win,” said Maurice. “We have the luxury of two guys who played big numbers last year and deserve to be in the net. So back-to-back at the start of the year is a good time to get him in.”
Here is the full line-up based on last night’s lines, with only a few players taking to the ice for the morning skate:
Ladd – Little – Wheeler
Perreault – Scheifele – Ehlers
Burmistrov – Lowry – Stafford
Thorburn – Copp – Petan
Chiarot – Byfuglien
Enstrom – Myers
Stuart – Trouba
Last night, the Jets were out shot 14-6 in the opening 20 minutes. Forward Blake Wheeler, one of six different goal scorers for the Jets in Boston, says this back-to-back situation presents an opportunity
for the team to get off to a better start.
“It’s kind of uncharacteristic of our team. Usually we get out to pretty good starts,” said Wheeler. “I think there’s a lot that goes into that. You have to give Boston credit for coming out and playing the way they did in the first period. It’s nice to get back at it tonight, and try to get our game going right off the bat.”
As for starting the season with back-to-back games, Wheeler says the close proximity between Boston and New Jersey helps. The Jets were 4-2-3 in the back half of back-to-back situations last season.
“You’re just right back into the mix. It’s going to happen at some point during the year,” he said. “There’s no excuses, it’s going to be a good test for us tonight.”
Puck drop at Prudential Center is set for 6 pm CT.
-Along with his first NHL goal last night, Nic Petan also blocked a shot. When talking about the play, Maurice could only smile.
“That enthusiasm of youth, and especially a real skilled guy. That’s great,” said Maurice. “That’s great currency in the room for him. The bench was pretty pleased to see it. The coaches were too.”
-Ben Chiarot made the opening night roster for the first time as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. It’s all part of a journey for Chiarot, who played his first NHL game in 2013. He was called up again last season, and never went back to the American Hockey League. He attributes some of his success to skating
with Kevin Bieksa in Hamilton.
“He used to run the pro skate a few years ago, so I went out there and started skating with him. Obviously (Winnipeg Jets assistant general manager Craig Heisinger) knows him pretty well from his time with the Moose,” said Chiarot. “He’s been really good for me. He’s been a good mentor, and I can’t
thank him enough for what he’s done for me.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com