Winnipeg - February 3, 2012 - Florida is fresh of a big 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals to move the Panthers back into first in the Southeast. Only 10 points separate first place Florida and last place Carolina with the Capitals 1 point behind them. Florida was not expected to be in the playoff hunt this year but they’ve proven to be a good team and first year head coach Kevin Dineen.
Kris Versteeg has been a Jet killer this year with 5 goals, 2 assists and a +7 rating in three games versus the Jets this year, so you can bet Florida will try to get him the puck early and often. That is of course if he’s able to play after missing the game against Washington with an illness. Also possibly out for the cats is starting goalie Jose Theodore who is questionable for the game with a knee injury.
Winnipeg got a late goal in the second period to take a 1-0 lead last night but was unable to hold on to it forcing the dreaded three-point game.
Thankfully the Jets won with a beauty play with Blake Wheeler setting up Kyle Wellwood for the game winner and were able to break Tampa’s winning streak. The return of Byfuglien if nothing else helped give some of the other defense a rest as he played a team high 25:36.
To make room for Byfuglien and Burmistrov, Evander Kane and Tim Stapleton were placed on Injured Reserve yesterday and the time-table for their return is still unknown.
The Jets sit only three points back of the first place Panthers and a regulation win can put them in striking range. Florida however has played three less games than Winnipeg so they will need some help if that is to hold. Also on the other side the Lightning sit just five points back of the Jets with two games in hand as well.
Perhaps Winnipeg’s biggest hurdle tonight will be breaking the back to back curse as they are 0-8-0 this season after playing the night before. The last time the Panthers and Jets met Florida showed Winnipeg how to win a back to back game. Perhaps the Jets can prove that they learnt something with a win in Florida tonight.
Keys to Victory
Win in regulation. The Jets can not continue to give their eastern opponents the extra point if they want to make the playoffs. It’s great that they are winning games but these single points could cost them.
Pepper the Goalie. If it’s Clemenson they need to make him sweat and if Theodore plays they need to test his knee and get him under pressure.
Shut down Versteeg. Same as last game they had to shut down Stamkos, they need to find a way to stop Versteeg from lighting them up.
Don’t fall prey to the curse. Florida showed the Jets how to do it, you gotta come out hard and keep the intensity up for as long as you can. Get a lead and keep pouring it on and hope you have the legs to hold off the late charge.
WIN IN REGULATION!
Tim Stapleton (lower body) out
Evander Kane (concussion) out
Jets – Chris Mason (6-5-0, 2.28, .910) [Confirmed]
Panthers – Scott Clemenson (7-2-5, 2.67, .915) [Confirmed]
The Panthers and Jets have played three times this year and two of those games have been 4-3 shoot out wins and while I think the Jets have a chance to break their back to back curse I have to go with a 4-3 Panthers win… via the shoot out.
Winnipeg Jets 3 – Florida Panthers 4 (SO)