Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 8:00 EST
Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba
TV: Fox Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey
Columbus Blue Jackets (28-18-3, 59 points, 4th Metro, 8th East)
Winnipeg Jets (32-16-2, 66 points, 1st Central, 2nd West)
With the second half of the season officially underway, the Columbus Blue Jackets have a tough test ahead of them as they take on one of the best teams in the Western Conference, and the entire NHL, the Winnipeg Jets. Columbus comes in on a season-long three-game losing streak after their 5-4 loss to the Sabres at home Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Jets come into play off a come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win at the Bruins Tuesday. They fell to the Flyers 3-1 on Monday, their first game since the All-Star Break.
Player to Watch
It was just a couple years ago the Jets locked up power forward Mark Scheifele to an eight-year, $49 million deal. And he’s only getting better. In his eighth season, Scheifele is having his best season to date with 25 goals (co-leads team), 36 assists (second on team), and 61 points (second on team). Adding to that, he looks to potentially smash career-highs among points (82), goals (32), and assists (50). The All-Star center also has his Jets in prime position as they contend for their first Stanley Cup.
The Blue Jackets called up Mark Letestu (healthy scratch) before Tuesday’s game against Buffalo as Boone Jenner is considered day-to-day with an unspecified injury and did not travel with the team. ... Markus Hannikainen [elbow] will return to the lineup for the first time since Jan. 8. ... After two assists against Buffalo on Tuesday, Ryan Murray set a career high with his 23rd assist of the season. ... Columbus has a chance to close out the month of January perfect on the penalty kill (22-for-22), and are up to 7th in the league overall (83.2%). ... They are first in the league (89.3%) since Dec. 1. ... Per Bluejackets.com: “According to Natural Stat Trick, Columbus allowed 31 scoring chances in 5-on-5 play and 19 high-danger chances” in their game against the Sabres.
More Tortorella: “For us to be ready for Winnipeg, everything has to improve. I haven’t seen a team play as bad as we played last night. I haven’t seen this team play as bad as we did. Everything needs to improve.” #CBJ— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 30, 2019
The Other Bench
I picked the Jets to win the Cup. So far, they are currently first atop the Central Division, only trailing the surprising Flames in the Western Conference. Last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals came against the Golden Knights, and now the Jets are aiming for the whole thing this season. Similarly, I picked Connor Hellebuyck as my Vezina favorite, and he’s right about where you’d expect, tied-for-third in the league among wins (22), with a .910 SV% and 2.85 GAA. Last season he played a career-high 67 games in the regular season and logged a high 3,969 minutes, while posting a league-best 44 wins and had a .924 SV% to go with a 2.36 GAA.
As you might expect with an explosive offense featuring leading point scorer Blake Wheeler — second in league with 53 assists, tied-for-eighth with 62 points — Scheifele, and of course Patrik Laine, co-leading the squad with Scheifele with 25 goals, the Jets unsurprisingly boast a top-10 NHL offense (3.40 GF/GP). They are just as stingy on the other side (2.78 GA/GP). The power play hums (26.5% 4th) and the penalty kill shuts down at 81.2%, 11th in the league.
They’ll be getting even stronger once Nikolaj Ehlers (15 goals, 12 assists) returns from a shoulder injury. They’re also doing this without the services of Dustin Byfuglien who is injured (lower-body) but should be nearing a February return.
The Jets have won their previous five games at home, scoring at least four goals in each game.
1/31/2019 CBJ @ WPG
3/3/2019 WPG @ CBJ
|3.40 (6)||GPG||3.22 (9)|
|2.78 (6)||GAPG||3.06 (19)|
|26.5% (4)||PP%||15.1% (27)|
|81.2% (11)||PK%||83.2% (t-6)|
|49.97% (15)||EV Corsi %||49.82% (16)|
|100.4 (t-12)||EV PDO||100.1 (15)|
|Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, 25||G Leader||Cam Atkinson, 28|
|Blake Wheeler, 53||A Leader||Artemi Panarin, 36|
|Blake Wheeler, 62||P Leader||Artemi Panarin, 55|
|Dustin Byfuglien, 52||PIM Leader||Josh Anderson, 44|
|18-6-2||Home / Road||14-8-1|
|Artemi Panarin||Pierre-Luc Dubois||Cam Atkinson|
|Nick Foligno||Alexander Wennberg||Josh Anderson|
|Oliver Bjorkstrand||Lukas Sedlak||Anthony Duclair|
|Markus Hannikainen||Brandon Dubinsky||Riley Nash|
|Seth Jones||Zach Werenski|
|Markus Nutivaara||Ryan Murray|
|Scott Harrington||David Savard|
|Kyle Connor||Mark Scheifele||Blake Wheeler|
|Patrik Laine||Bryan Little||Jack Roslovic|
|Mathieu Perreault||Adam Lowry||Brandon Tanev|
|Brendan Lemieux||Andrew Copp||Mason Appleton|
|Josh Morrissey||Jacob Trouba|
|Ben Chiarot||Tyler Myers|
|Dmitry Kulikov||Joe Morrow|