Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler

It’s Winnipeg Jets Day on PHT


Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Winnipeg Jets.

Ahh, the Jets.

It’s been three seasons since they’ve moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg and each of them has ended without a playoff appearance. As the lack of success rolls on, the frustration with the organization is growing in Manitoba. After all, the excitement of having the NHL return to the city has calmed down but the team is treading water.

Their first season in the Western Conference saw the Jets finish with 84 points going 37-35-10 and finishing last in the Central Division and 11th in the West. Their disappointing play cost Claude Noel his job as head coach after going 19-23-5 under him and resulted in Paul Maurice taking over and doing  a bit better going 18-12-5. Of course, it wasn’t all hunky-dory for Maurice either.

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little had solid seasons leading the team in scoring, but Maurice had his issues with star forward Evander Kane and kept former defenseman Dustin Byfuglien at forward, a move Noel made in an effort to keep his job.

Despite changing positions, Byfuglien still had 20 goals and 56 points. Kane slumped all season though and finished with 19 goals and 41 points. Captain Andrew Ladd was a bright spot as well with 23 goals and 54 points. Mark Scheifele did well in his first full season in the NHL with 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games. Olli Jokinen had a solid season, but will play in Nashville next season.

While the offense was encouraging, goaltending was a major sore spot.

Ondrej Pavelec struggled all season and finished with a .901 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.01. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already declared him his No. 1 goalie next season and he could benefit next season from a defensive corps that gains another year together and has a lot of upside.

Rookie Jacob Trouba had an impressive first season in Winnipeg even in spite of suffering a scary injury. If Zach Bogosian can avoid the injury bug, those two along with Tobias Enstrom can team up with Mark Stuart and a hopefully recovered from back surgery Grant Clitsome to make up a solid group on the blue line.

If they keep it together, it’ll put the onus on Pavelec to play to the best of his ability – something he’s struggled to do in Winnipeg after having success in Atlanta.

Offseason recap

While the rest of the Central Division underwent an arms race to commence beating each other’s heads in all season, the Jets essentially stayed out of the fray.

They replaced Olli Jokinen with Mathieu Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks, re-signed Michael Frolik to avoid arbitration, and added T.J. Galiardi. They also re-signed Chris Thorburn to a three-year, $3.6 million contract which was… odd.

The Jets also parted ways with Al Montoya (who signed with Florida) and will go with Michael Hutchinson as the backup goalie to/guy to potentially unseat Pavelec.

The highlight of the Jets’ summer may have come at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia when they selected Halifax winger Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth overall pick.

Virtanen to make NHL debut tonight versus Kings

Jake Virtanen
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Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.

The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.

“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”

Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.

The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.

If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.

Goalie nods: Lack to make ‘Canes debut

Eddie Lack, Stanislav Galiev

Carolina fans will get their first regular-season look at Eddie Lack tonight when the ‘Canes host the Panthers at PNC Arena.

“[Lack’s] excited, and the guys are excited to play in front of him,” head coach Bill Peters said on Tuesday, per the club website. “He’s a good teammate, and they want to play hard in front of him.

“I think Eddie will be more than solid. He was good in the preseason, and I’m glad we’re able to get him in as soon as we have.”

The ‘Canes went with Cam Ward in their first two games of the season — both losses — and the results were a mixed bag. Ward was steady in the opener, stopping 23 of 25 shots, but wasn’t great against Detroit on Saturday, allowing four goals on just 19 shots.

Should he play well tonight, Lack could be in line for more starts in the near future. Carolina will embark on a seven-games-in-13-nights road swing later this week, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and San Jose on Oct. 23 and 24.

For the Panthers, Al Montoya will get the start, giving No. 1 Roberto Luongo the evening off.


— New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid will face Nashville for his first home start of the year, as Cory Schneider is away from the team following the birth of his son. Yann Danis has been called up from AHL Albany to back up. Pekka Rinne goes for the Preds.

Michael Hutchinson starts for the Jets in New York tonight. The Rangers will again roll with Henrik Lundqvist, who’ll play for the fourth time in six nights.

Carey Price is back in net for Montreal against Pittsburgh. Price watched Mike Condon get his first career NHL victory on Sunday against the Sens; for the Pens, Marc-Andre Fleury looks to get his first win of the year after opening with losses in Dallas and Arizona.

Martin Jones makes his third straight start for the Sharks, while Braden Holtby makes his second straight for the Caps.

Ben Bishop goes for the Lightning tonight in an opening-round playoff rematch against the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard goes for Detroit, after posting a shutout in the season opener.

Anders Nilsson will make his Oilers debut this evening in Dallas, taking over for Cam Talbot. For the Stars, Kari Lehtonen will get his first start of the year, and is looking to rebound from a shaky preseason.

Brian Elliott, who started the season opener, is back in goal for the Blues tonight for Calgary. The Flames will counter with Jonas Hiller, making his second straight start after Karri Ramo got the season-opener (a 5-1 home loss to Vancouver).

— No confirmations yet from either Vancouver or L.A. for tonight’s game at Staples. It’s likely that Ryan Miller will go — the Canucks have third-stringer Richard Bachman backing up with Jacob Markstrom (hamstring) injured — and it’s a good bet the Kings go with Jonathan Quick, given they’re 0-2 and need a win.

Related: Quick on save percentage: ‘Those numbers don’t mean nothing’