The Winnipeg Jets are running out of time. With just this one game remaining in their season, they currently sit one point behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot. While the Jets will not make the playoffs without help from the Hurricanes and Devils, there will be no opportunity to watch, wait, and worry unless they can beat the Canadiens tonight. The Jets, as a collective embodiment of desperation, are in rare must-win situation that satisfies the objective requirements of the cliche.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are coasting. They're already clinched a playoff spot, and at this point, it would be harder to lose home-ice advantage than maintain it. All that remains is to determine if the Canadiens can earn enough points to take the second seed, and at least an extra round of home-ice if they were to advance that far. If recent results are any indication, however, the Canadiens are not overly concerned with where they end up.
The Canadiens have lost five of their last six, looking disorganized and unlucky at best, and listless at worst. Berkshire is worried that they're mentally weak. Large groups of Canadiens fans seem to have abandoned hope for this year's run, changing their conversation topics from competing with the Penguins and Bruins to how the team should look good for next year. While this recent run has exposed potential flaws within the team's systems and personnel usage, it does not take away from the fact that the Canadiens are an excellent team. Given the Jets' circumstances, tonight could be the playoff atmosphere that will wake up a team that needs to be ready to compete next week.
In an attempt to address the personnel-related issue, the Canadiens will mix up their lineup by adding Jared Tinordi to the back-end. The Canadiens have not yet confirmed whose place Tinordi will take, but there is a strong chance that Yannick Weber is the odd man out. Weber will be joined on the sidelines by the injured Alexei Emelin, but the Canadiens will otherwise enjoy the luxury of having their full roster at their disposal as the playoffs approach.
The Canadiens will start Carey Price in net, and he has enjoyed a great deal of success in his career against the Jets. Price has a 9-3-3 record against the Jets, posting a .915 save percentage. Price should be fired up for this one, as his competitive nature motivates him to regain the trust of the venerable Serge Savard.
The Canadiens have leveraged Price's success against the Jets into team success, as well. In fact, since the Jets moved to Manitoba, the Canadiens have failed to beat them only once, on a ghastly evening when one Randolph William Cunneyworth spotted the Jets the presence of two promising young Habs for no apparent reason.
The Jets will pile the playoff hopes of a province on the back of Ondrej Pavelec, who has a 4-6-1 record against the Canadiens in his career with the Jets and their Atlanta predecessors. Pavelec has been average this season, posting a .901 save percentage on the year.
Similar to their opponents, one of the Jets most significant injuries is to one of their top-4 defensemen. Zach Bogosian has apparently suffered a concussion after taking an awkward chin-shot from Kyle Okposo, and shouldn't be available tonight. Tobias Enstrom has missed the last several games and will not dress tonight, and Olli Jokinen will not play due to a high-ankle sprain. Finally, Kyle Wellwood is also day-to-day.
For excellent Jets coverage, including a preview of tonight's game and a profile of the drama surrounding Bogosian's recent injury, check out Arctic Ice Hockey.