When the Winnipeg Jets host the Montreal Canadiens at 5 pm ET today, 15 years of dreaming and hoping will be complete. Well, almost complete – most of those dreams probably ended with the Jets earning a sweet victory.
That part is up to a very young Jets roster, which only has one past-his-prime player in 35-year-old backup goalie Chris Mason. (Beyond Mason, the Jets have just one forward over 30 [Nik Antropov, 31] and three defensemen at 30: Randy Jones, Johnny Oduya and Ron Hainsey.)
Considering the situation and the Atlanta Thrashers’ recent lack of playoff appearances, this is it for players such as Evander Kane and Ondrej Pavelec. With that in mind, this ranks as head coach Claude Noel’s first big challenge: making sure that the Jets players stay within themselves and play a simple game.
“The biggest challenge is going to be keeping the emotional level of the players at an even keel,” Noel said. “That’s my biggest challenge. It’ll have to be that way through the initial 20 minutes. I recognize those things, so I’m not going to try to say anything magical that’s going to get them psyched up. They’re already going to be psyched up … I would be better to say things that will keep them calm.”
On the bright side, the Jets feature two players who aren’t very far removed from the pressure of competing in the Stanley Cup finals. Captain Andrew Ladd and catalyst Dustin Byfuglien contributed to the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 championship run, so they’ll know what to expect – generally speaking.
That being said, when you take a crowd that created such a raucous showing for a preseason game into account, even Ladd and Byfuglien might not be totally prepared for the decibel levels that today’s Winnipeg crowd will produce.
(Note: the game will be on NHL Network, by the way.)
Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.
It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.
Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.
The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.
Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.
They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.
You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.
With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.
Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).
In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:
Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.
Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.
So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.
The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.
No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.
He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.
There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.
So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.
Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.
(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)