PENGUINS (X-X-X) vs. JETS (X-X-X) WHEN: December 10, 2012 - 7:00 pm | WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
Hockey is back in Winnipeg, and with Year 1 of the rebirth in the books, the Jets are looking to make some strides in the Eastern Conference. The club finished 11th in the conference, just eight points shy of a playoff spot, but the Jets brought in some personnel that they hope will get them back to the postseason.
Olli Jokinen was the big offseason signing in the ‘Peg,’ and the Finnish center will be looked upon to provide a goal scoring touch that was lacking last season. Jokinen, 33, enjoyed his most productive season in five years while skating with Calgary in 2011-12, recording 23 goals and 61 points, appearing in all 82 contests for the Flames. Former Penguin Alexei Ponikarovsky is also headed to Winnipeg this season. The 6-foot-4 winger potted 14 goals and 33 points playing for Carolina and New Jersey last season.
The Jets said goodbye to forwards Tanner Glass, Eric Fehr, Mark Flood and Tim Stapleton, as well as defenseman Randy Jones during the offseason. Backup goaltender Chris Mason is headed to Nashville, replaced by netminder Al Montoya.
Up front, the Jets have plenty of firepower to contend for a playoff spot, including 30-goal-scorer Evander Kane. His 57 points were second only behind Blake Wheeler’s 64 on the club. Wheeler had 47 assists last season, establishing himself as a top playmaker. Andrew Ladd, Kyle Wellwood, Brian Little and Nik Antropov all recorded 35 or more points last year in Winnipeg.
There was also offense coming from the blue line in the form of Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian. Byfuglien was the Jets’ third-leading scorer, potting 12 goals and 53 points through 66 contests in 2011-12. Enstrom and Bogosian were eighth and ninth on the team in scoring, with 33 and 30 points, respectively. Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart add a defensive, physical presence on the backend for the club.
Amid fears of losing starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, the Jets were able to re-sign their top netminder during the summer, hoping that the defense will play better in front of the Czech Republic native. Pavelec had 29 wins in 2011-12, but faced over 2,000 shots, and was first in the league with 191 goals allowed.
JETS: OLLI JOKINEN
Entering his mid-30s, the 6-foot-2 Jokinen will be relied on to put the puck in the back of the net for the Jets. Jokinen enjoyed success last season in Calgary, but it was the first solid season in the points department since 2007-08 for the forward. Jokinen always seems to play well when facing the Penguins, putting up 17 goals and 35 points in 42 career games against Pittsburgh. PENGUINS: XXX
Ben Lovejoy , knee (5)
F Mats Zuccarello, broken wrist (6)
D Steve Eminger, lower body (10)
D Michael Sauer, concussion (56)