NIKU IS IN
642 days after he made his NHL debut at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Jets defenceman Sami Niku will play his 33rd NHL game and his second with Winnipeg this season. The Finnish defenceman starts on the right side with Anthony Bitetto and there is a chance he may move to the left on the team's second pairing with Neal Pionk during the game against the Canadiens.
"He has the ability to go back and get pucks so that's what we're looking for from him," said Paul Maurice following the morning skate in Montreal.
"When he's healthy and he's skating it would be a version of what got Josh (Morrissey) into the league."
COPP IS BACK
After suffering an injury back on December 17th against the Carolina Hurricanes, Andrew Copp has found his way back to the Jets lineup and that can only help the team. There is no arguing his impact on the Jets third line with Adam Lowry and Mathieu Perreault before the injury. On top of that, the team's penalty kill has seen the affect of his absence giving up a power play goal in seven of the eight game's he's missed going 15-23 (65.2%). Jansen Harkins will come out of the lineup.
SPEAKING OF PK…
It's not just the fact they are giving up power play goals, it's the timing of those power play goals against. Saturday's loss in St. Paul in overtime was a Wild man advantage, they were down a goal to the Leafs last Thursday before Mitch Marner scored on the power play late in the second period, December 29th in St. Louis the Jets were trailing 2-1 early in the third before Robert Thomas scored the insurance marker. This is an area the Jets are working to improve.
HELLEBUYCK COUNTED ON AGAIN
If past history has any indication of what's going to happen tonight, expect a lot of rubber to be thrown at Connor Hellebuyck. The shot totals for the Canadiens in the last five meetings with the Jets are as follows - 48, 44, 53, 40, 50. The All-Star netminder was tremendous against the Wild after a tough night at home vs. the Maple Leafs and the Jets need him at his best to get a much needed win.
If there is any team that knows how the Jets feel about missing key players up front, it is the Montreal Canadiens. The injury bug has hit the Habs hard at forward and that is a big reason why Ilya Kovalchuk was signed to a one year, two way deal the other day. Kovalchuk of course, is the Jets/Thrashers franchise leader in many offensive categories and he will make his Canadiens debut tonight on a line with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault.