The Jets return home to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a rematch of last Tuesday’s showdown in Pennsylvania. The Jets came out on top last week and they are looking to do that again as the teams will finish their season series tonight.
Here’s the storylines and important things to watch for as the Jets are kicking off a two week homestand.
1) Home Sweet Home
The Jets have played six games this year, five on the road and only one at home. That’s changing tonight as the Jets get a massive six game homestand. The team has two homestands this season of six games which are the longest they will get to enjoy. The other happens after the All-Star break in the middle of February.
The Jets also get the benefit of playing a few less than stellar opponents. They face off against the Penguins tonight before facing the Coyotes, Islanders, Oilers, Kings, and Flames. While the Alberta teams are having fine years, the Jets could easily win four or five games from this homestand. Banking points early is always a good thing to do, and the team hopes to do that with some genuine home cooking in the next two weeks.
2) We’re Going Streaking
The Jets have a winning streak for the first time of the year. With three straight victories against the Penguins, Wild, and Blackhawks, the Jets are hoping to extend it to at least four games. Winning streaks are always important and they can do great things for team morale. Jumping out to a hot start can help mitigate disaster late in the season. The Jets don’t want to be fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch, they would much rather get out to an early lead and defend their space near the top of the division.
3) Give Lowry Some Real Linemates
We all know the type of player Lowry is. He’s excellent defensively and drives possession with nearly everyone he plays. Everyone that is, except for his current linemates, Bourque and Letestu.
Winnipeg's 2nd line of Copp, Connor and Ehlers led the team in terms of 5-on-5 shot attempts. Roslovic's line was also above 50%, while Scheifele's was just below and Lowry's continued to struggle.
Whether it's Copp or even Bryan Little as a winger, Lowry's line needs a boost.
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) October 13, 2019
Hopefully this line is temporary and will be changed when Little is back in the lineup. Letestu is the likely candidate to come out of the lineup and Little might slot into the third line. The combo of Little, Lowry, and Bourque could do some damage as a veteran shutdown line. Regardless of what change is made, it seems that anything would be better for Lowry than playing with Letestu and Bourque.
One has to wonder how long it will be before Gustafsson get’s his crack at playing his first NHL game…
4) What Is Happening With Niku?
Niku was sent to the Moose a few days ago so he could continue to get some increased ice-time at the AHL level. While there’s no good reason why Niku should be playing for the Moose instead of the Jets, we recently learned that Niku’s still dealing with a lower-body injury. Perhaps this is the reason why he was a healthy scratch instead of Anthony Bitetto two games ago?
Coach Vincent confirmed after the game that Sami Niku was pulled because of a lower-body injury. Said Niku wanted to play. Said it happened a few days ago and that Niku pushed through it. Said it is just a matter of time, but nothing serious. #AHL #MBMoose
— Dave Minuk (@ICdave) October 12, 2019
Whatever the case may be, the Jets seem to not really know what’s going on with Sami Niku. Either that or they aren’t telling the rest of us what’s really going on with Sami Niku. The hope would be to get Niku through recovery so he could make his way back to Jets and continually get ice-time with the big club.
5) Heinola’s Short Leash
I don’t mind the move to sit Heinola on Saturday against the Blackhawks. He didn’t have his best game against the Wild last week and getting some rest after a full week of NHL action might be a good thing for the 18 year old.
There’s no need to play Heinola over 20 minutes on a nightly basis. He’s not used to such a rigorous schedule and getting some time off will likely help him as the season progresses. There’s no need to worry about the rookie who has looked really strong all season long. If you are keeping track, there’s a few important things for Heinola in terms of his contract status.
#NHLJets Ville Heinola ELC tracker
1) Games until ELC no longer slides = 5
2) Games until pro season accrued for UFA = 34
(For #1 player must dress to count.)
(For #2 the games count regardless of dressing or not as long as player is on the roster or on IR)
— Aavco Cup (@AavcoCup) October 13, 2019
With three straight victories, the Jets have been playing well in the last few games. They will take care of business on home ice although it’s likely to be a close game from start to finish. Look for tightly contested game as the Jets win 3-2.