WINNIPEG – Three consecutive losses for the Winnipeg Jets mean that their forward lines will have a new look when they meet the winless New Jersey Devils at MTS Centre on Sunday evening.
At the Jets’ (2-3-0) morning skate Sunday, coach Claude Noel broke up the trio of captain Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler, his top line that had carried the Jets for much of last season. Evander Kane will replace Ladd on the Jets’ top line, while Ladd will skate alongside rookie Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik.
“I think we have to play better in a general sense,” Noel said of the line changes. “Will the lines do that because of the changes? We’ll see.”
Noel will also slide offseason acquisition Devin Setoguchi down to the Jets’ third line to combine with Olli Jokinen and Eric Tangradi. Noel will also not dress defenseman Grant Clitsome, to be replaced on the Jets’ third pairing with Paul Postma.
“We’ve lost three in a row,” Ladd said. “It’s two desperate teams that are trying to get back on the right track. I think that when things aren’t going [well], you try different ways to spark the team, and that’s one way to do it.”
New Jersey (0-2-3) brings its own problems to Winnipeg in continuing a five-game Canadian sojourn that will wrap up later this week against the Ottawa Senators. The Devils are 0-1-2 on the trip so far and winless in five games to start a season for the first time since the franchise moved to New Jersey in 1982.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer will counter with line changes of his own. Andrei Loktionov, who did not dress for the Devils’ 3-2 loss against the Calgary Flames on Friday night, will return to the lineup and replace Jacob Josefson on the team’s third line with Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder. Henrique, who can play center, will skate on the left wing to accommodate Loktionov’s return.
“I’m comfortable in both spots,” Henrique said, “so it’s not a big deal moving back and forth.”
Goalie Cory Schneider will start for the Devils and return to the building where he apprenticed for three seasons as a Vancouver Canucks farmhand when the Canucks’ American Hockey League affiliate operated in Winnipeg.
“It’s good to be back,” Schneider said after the Devils’ morning skate. “It seems so long ago, but it really wasn’t all that long ago.”
Winnipeg will mark Schneider’s second stop on his homecoming tour that began when the Devils visited Vancouver last Tuesday. But Schneider is more interested in helping the Devils earn their first win of the season than in nostalgia.
“We’re close,” Schneider said of the team’s early-season play, “but that’s not good enough. We’re playing 40 or 50 minutes a night, but we need to put a full 60 minutes together.”
Opposing Schneider will be Al Montoya, who starts for the first time this season for Winnipeg and provides Ondrej Pavelec with a rare break.
Here are the expected lineups for the Devils and Jets on Sunday:
Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Jaromir Jagr
Ryane Clowe - Travis Zajac - Damien Brunner
Adam Henrique - Andrei Loktionov - Michael Ryder
Rostislav Olesz - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold
Scratched: Mark Fayne, Jacob Josefson
Injured: Ryan Carter (upper body), Mattias Tedenby (lower body)
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi - Olli Jokinen - Devin Setoguchi
James Wright - Jim Slater – Matt Halischuk
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Zach Bogosian - Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart - Paul Postma
Scratched: Grant Clitsome, Anthony Peluso
Injured: Chris Thorburn (lower body)