FACING JACOB TROUBA
Following the offseason trade of Trouba to New York, the Jets get to face their former teammate for the first time. Trouba led all Jets defencemen in points in 2018-19 (career high 50 points) and played six years in Winnipeg.
"The biggest difference is playing against your friends," said Trouba to the New York media yesterday.
"But I've played against my friends before on other teams. That's nothing too crazy."
Jets forward Andrew Copp played with Trouba with the Michigan Wolverines and said it will be strange to see him on the other side of the ice.
"It's the first time I've played against him since we were nine," said Copp at the beginning of training camp.
"Lining up and looking across the ice and seeing him smiling at me is something I'm not going to be ready for."
Another former Jet Brendan Lemieux will also be in the Ranger lineup tonight.
PIONK/HEINOLA MAKE JETS DEBUT
Jets defenceman Neal Pionk was one of the pieces that came over in the Trouba trade along with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The pick was used to select Finnish defenceman Ville Heinola. Pionk played a 101 games in a Rangers jersey and recorded 41 points with the Blueshirts.
Meanwhile, Heinola was one of the pleasant surprises from training camp and will make his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden. The 18-year-old will be going up against fellow Finn and 2019 second overall pick Kaapo Kaako. The two won gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver this year. Paul Maurice gave him the "first game" speech yesterday instead of today because he didn't want the rookie wondering if he was playing or not.
TOP DEFENCE PAIRING
With the injury to Nathan Beaulieu, it looks like Dmitry Kulikov will find himself beside Josh Morrissey on the Jets shutdown defence duo. For the majority of his time in Winnipeg, Kulikov has usually been paired with Tyler Myers, but with the big man heading to Vancouver, it's fresh start for Kulikov. The Russian averaged 15:40 of ice time in 2018-19 - which was a career low - expect that number to increase this evening against the Rangers.
CONNOR AND LAINE
The two Winnipeg snipers only have a couple of practices under their belts since signing their new contracts last weekend. Patrik Laine admitted to reporters today that he feels pretty good but it will take him a week or two to get into game shape and into a rhythm. Kyle Connor will skate on a line with Laine and centreman Andrew Copp to start in the game against the Rangers.
Connor Hellebuyck is looking to return to his Vezina Trophy finalist form which saw him lead the NHL in wins with 44 and Goalie Point Shares. Hellebuyck faced a league high 2051 shots last season. The five-year veteran started three games in the preseason and although he didn't record a victory, he looked like his old self against the Minnesota Wild in the final game of the exhibition schedule.