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5 Keys: Blues at Jets, Game 1

Big test for St. Louis goalie Binnington in playoff debut; Winnipeg Whiteout will be factor

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BLUES at JETS

8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS3, FS-MW

The Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues begin the Western Conference First Round at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday.

The Jets and Blues face off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. The Blues earned a four-game sweep of the original Jets in the 1982 Division Semifinals.

Winnipeg (47-30-5) finished second in the Central Division and made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since joining the NHL as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999.

St. Louis (45-28-9) was third in the Central and qualified after missing the playoffs last season.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:

 

[RELATED: Complete Jets vs. Blues series coverage]

 

1. Keep it going

The Blues were last in the NHL (15-18-4) on Jan. 2 before going 30-10-5 in their final 45 games, including an 11-game winning streak from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19. They are the seventh team in the expansion era to reach the postseason after sitting in last at any point after New Year's Day (minimum 20 games) and will try to be the first to advance past the first round.

 

2. Get back on track

The Jets were 31-15-2 entering the All-Star break but 16-15-3 in the second half, including 4-5-1 in their last 10 games to fall out of first place in the Central Division. They need a lot more from forward Patrik Laine, who scored 18 goals in November but five after the break and finished with 30, a drop-off from the 44 he scored last season. He had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 17 playoff games to help Winnipeg advance to the Western Conference Final before a five-game loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. The Jets need that version of Laine again.

 

3. Binnington's test

Jordan Binnington is set for his playoff debut after setting Blues records for wins (24) and shutouts (five) by a rookie goalie. He went 24-5-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and five shutouts after being recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Jan. 7. His 1.89 GAA led the NHL and .927 save percentage was tied for fourth with Thomas Greiss of the New York Islanders (minimum 25 games). How Binnington responds against the Jets, who were seventh in goals scored (270) and goals per game (3.29), in a postseason atmosphere will be a major factor for the Blues.

 

4. Morrissey's return

Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey missed the final 20 regular-season games with an upper-body injury but is cleared to return for Game 1.

That means the Jets can reunite their top pair of Morrissey and Jacob Trouba. Morrissey must get back to speed quickly, since that pair regularly draws the assignment against the opposition's best forwards. Awaiting them is the Blues' projected top line of Ryan O'Reilly centering Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko.

 

5. The Whiteout

Bell MTS Place will be full of white-clad fans, a Winnipeg playoff tradition.

The arena is small (capacity 15,321) and the crowd is always loud, but playoff fever makes it seem even more on top of the action, adding to the intensity.

The Jets like to use the energy to sustain their game and opponents have needed a variety of adjustment periods to get used to the atmosphere. Blues forwards Pat Maroon (with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015), Chris Thorburn (with the Jets in 2015) and David Perron (with the Golden Knights in 2018) have previously experienced the Winnipeg Whiteout.

Blues projected lineup

Brayden Schenn -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz -- Oskar Sundqvist -- David Perron

Pat Maroon -- Tyler Bozak -- Robert Thomas

Zach Sanford -- Ivan Barbashev -- Alexander Steen

Vince Dunn -- Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester -- Colton Parayko

Joel Edmundson -- Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington

Jake Allen

Scratched: Michael Del Zotto, Mackenzie MacEachern, Carl Gunnarsson, Robby Fabbri, Chris Thorburn

Injured: Sammy Blais (lower body)

Jets projected lineup

Kyle Connor -- Mark Scheifele -- Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault -- Kevin Hayes -- Nikolaj Ehlers

Andrew Copp -- Bryan Little -- Patrik Laine

Par Lindholm -- Adam Lowry -- Jack Roslovic

Josh Morrissey -- Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot -- Dustin Byfuglien

Dmitry Kulikov -- Tyler Myers

Connor Hellebuyck

Laurent Brossoit

Scratched: Bogdan Kiselevich, Joe Morrow, Sami Niku, Matt Hendricks, Nathan Beaulieu

Injured: Brandon Tanev (upper body)

Status report

Parayko returns after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. … Tanev skated after Winnipeg's practice Tuesday but will not play in Game 1.

NHL.com correspondent Scott Billeck contributed to this report

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