JETS (13-11-4) at RED WINGS (17-9-1)
TV: CBC-JETS, FS-Detroit (HD)
: Winnipeg 7-2-1; Detroit 8-2-0
: This is the first and only game these teams will play this season. That will change next season after the League's realignment plan puts the Jets and Red Wings in the same conference, meaning they'll face each other six times.
It's a matchup pitting two of the League's hottest teams, but Detroit boasts an impressive 11-2-1 record at home, while Winnipeg is just 4-7-4 on the road and played on Friday night at home - beating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 for their season-high fourth straight win. The Red Wings are coming off an impressive 5-2 rout of the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena in which they scored all five goals in the first period - all by different players. Pavel Datsyuk
is expected to play despite nursing a lower body injury, but otherwise Detroit is in pretty good shape. The Jets are getting strong play from Bryan Little
, Evander Kane
and Blake Wheeler
to help make up for a few injuries.
The Jets have picked up 17 points in their last 11 contests and kept it rolling on Friday night against the Hurricanes. They led 2-0 just 5:04 into the game, scored twice on the power play in 72 seconds in the second period and breezed despite allowing a pair of third-period tallies. Dustin Byfuglien
, Tim Stapleton
, Kane and Little all scored, while Wheeler added three assists and now has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in the past 10 games. Backup goalie Chris Mason
picked up the win in place of starter Ondrej Pavelec
- who will start in Detroit after beating the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Tuesday at MTS Centre
"You'd like (Mason) to play at home as well," Jets coach Claude Noel told the Winnipeg Free Press. "And what do you want to do, throw him into the net in Detroit? I mean, there's a respect factor you try to have with players. I wouldn't feel really great if you threw me out against Detroit. That's like throwing somebody out to the dogs."
The emergence of Valtteri Filppula
as a force continued against Phoenix. In his first game back after missing a game In St. Louis with a deep cut to his right shin from a skate blade, Filppula scored a goal and added an assist in a Detroit's five-goal first period. The line of Filppula at left wing, Henrik Zetterberg
at center and Jiri Hudler
on the right side is one of the hottest in the League. Against the Coyotes, they each finished with two points and seemed to create quality scoring chances every time they went over the boards in the first period.
"Obviously (Filppula) is on fire and (Zetterberg) is on fire," said Hudler, who's scored a goal and added an assist in each of the past two games. "They both fly. I think (we're) just playing smart (and) simple - not as fancy as people would think. (We) just grind it out and win some battles down low and put it on the net. Those nice plays come out come after that."
Who's Hot: Johan Franzen
has scored four goals and tallied 10 points in his past 10 games for the Red Wings, while Zetterberg has two goals and eight assists in the past 10 contests. … Little is scorching
hot for Winnipeg with points in five straight games (three goals and four assists). Kane is also red-hot, with 10 goals and 14 points in his last 11 games - including a goal and a helper against the Hurricanes. He's picking up more assists, but don't expect him to stop passing up shots because of it.
"You definitely want to be developing in all areas," Kane told the Winnipeg Free Press. "But in terms of me turning into a playmaking, pass-first guy... probably not. That's just not the makeup of me. I'm
a shoot-first guy. I'm more of a goal-scorer than a playmaker."
Detroit is still without forward Jan Mursak
(fractured ankle) - who returned to practice on Friday - and forward Patrick Eaves
(fractured jaw), who is still weeks away. … Winnipeg still has Tobias Enstrom
(fractured collarbone), Ron Hainsey
(lower body), Derek Meech
(lower body) and Aaron Gagnon on injured reserve, while Eric Fehr
and Nik Antropov
(both undisclosed) are day to day.
The first two periods could be even more important than normal for both teams, who each boast strong records when tied or leading after 40 minutes. The Jets improved to 13-1-2 on Friday night when leading or tied after two periods, while Detroit is 16-1-1. The Jets are 0-10-2 when trailing after two periods, while Wings are just 1-8-1 when they trail heading into the third behind. … The Wings have won eight in a row at Joe Louis Arena.
For all of the Wings' firepower, their best player might be Jimmy Howard
, who's having an outstanding season in goal. He said the extended time he spent in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League plus his first two years in the NHL have prepared him well for the rigors of the League. Last spring's playoffs helped too -- Howard was one of Detroit's best performers.
"It's just a comfortablity factor with this being my third year out there," Howard said after Friday's practice. "I feel like I can be a difference maker out there. I've got a lot of confidence coming off the playoffs last year and I'm just trying to keep it going."