Winnipeg Jets 10-10-1 (21 pts) at Florida Panthers 6-11-5 (17 pts)
The Florida Panthers have an opportunity to turn a new leaf tonight when the Winnipeg Jets come into town. Young Jacob Markstrom will make his third start of the season, replacing the injured Jose Theodore who is expected to be out 5-6 weeks with a groin tear. Markstrom has a chance to be the everyday goaltender in Florida and if he improves upon the Panthers’ poor goalie play thus far this season, it could be just the kick the Panthers need to start stringing some wins together.
If the Panthers are hoping to turn things around, they will have to do so against a Winnipeg Jets team that has played extremely well on the road of late. The Jets most recent road trip saw the team win four out of its five game helping propel the Jets to second in the Southeast Division with 21 points and a 10-10-1 record. Florida on the other hand sits tied with the Capitals for last place in the Eastern Conference with 17 points.
Tonight will be the third of five match ups between the two teams. The Panthers will see a lot of the Jets this week as Florida will host Winnipeg again on Friday. The Panthers took the first game in the series 6-3 in a home win January 31st. Six different Panthers scored in that game and Florida tallied five in the third period. Since that win, Florida has won at home only once, last week against the Penguins. The Jets took the second meeting in a 3-2 overtime win in Winnipeg. Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Fleischmann scored for the Panthers and Bryan Little scored the game winner for the Jets with 16 ticks left in the overtime period.
Players to Watch:
Jacob Markstrom is the player every Panther fan will be watching closely tonight and rightfully so. Markstrom impressed in his two starts recording a .915 save percentage and a 3.05 GAA. A win tonight against Winnipeg would inject some life into a struggling Panther team.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored a goal in both this years meetings with the Jets. He is also coming off a two goal game against the Hurricanes and now has ten goals on the season. One thing that sucks about the short season is, it robs players like Huberdeau of having full rookies seasons to compile stats. That robs fans the chance to compare Huberdeau’s rookie year with other great rookie years in terms of production. Just for fun, Huberdeau has 10 goals through 22 games which projected over a full 82 game season is 37.27 goals. His 15 points translate to 55.9 points over a full 82 games.
Evander Kane had played stellar in the Jets recent five game road trip, and was a big reason the team had so much success. In the last four games of the trip, Kane tallied five goals. He was held off the score sheet in the Jets last two games, both at home, but with the team back on the road Kane will continue to be a speedy, dangerous forward.
The Panthers injuries have been in the spotlight recently and not much has changed. Jose Theodore, Mike Weaver and Dmitry Kulikov are the latest to go down. They join Scott Upshall, Kris Versteeg and Ed Jovanovski on the sidelines as well as Sean Bergenheim who is done for the season. The injuries mean Colby Robak and Nolan Yonkman should dress again tonight.
For the Jets, Dustin Byfuglien may not play tonight as he was attending a personal matter in Minnesota on Monday. He is supposed to be traveling to Florida from Minnesota today and should arrive in time for the game but weather may hinder his plans. Zach Redmond, Tobias Enstrom and Anthony Peluso will also be out for the Jets.
Here is the Panthers’ lineup according to NHL.com
- With the news coming out about Stephen Weiss being out for the season, it is no surprise to see Jonathan Rheault in the lineup making his NHL debut. The 26 year old Rheault has been San Antonio’s most productive player this season. In 50 games, Rheault has 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists).
- In Sunday’s game against Carolina, Kevin Dineen mostly only used five defenemen with Yonkman only getting 6:07 of ice time. I would expect that number to go up as Yonkman spends more and more time with the big club.
- Jacob Markstrom is getting the start tonight for Florida, something to get excited about.
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