The Canadiens return home to face the Winnipeg Jets, continuing their tour of teams in jeopardy of not making the playoffs. Having failed to batten down the hatches and hold on to a third period lead against the Flyers, the Canadiens will have contend with a team that has attained similar success to the Flyers, but has used a different method to get there.
Though it may not have been evident last night, when the Flyers popped in four even strength goals and then an empty netter, the Flyers primary strength is their strong special teams. The Winnipeg Jets, conversely, have been able to hold their heads above water in the fenwick close metric, while being dragged down by a 28th ranked powerplay and a penalty kill in the bottom ten. Nonetheless, this sort of reliable even strength play has pulled the Jets into the midst of a dogfight for the Southeast Division crown. The Jets stand in front for the time being, but are giving up multiple games in hand to their closest competitors, the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.
The Canadiens, for the first time this season, may have themselves in some significant injury trouble. Tomas Plekanec left the game with lower-body injury, and the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs tweeted that he is doubtful for this evening. The Canadiens have already called up Gabriel Dumont to prepare for this eventuality. Max Pacioretty also took a hard shot off his foot last night, which is not nearly serious enough an injury to entertain the thought of him being unavailable this evening. The Canadiens also remain without Colby Armstrong, Rene Bourque, Raphael Diaz, and Ryan White.
The Canadiens most significant advantage in this game may be the division their opponent calls home. The Habs have already swept the Hurricanes, Panthers, and Lightning and this season, while also taking the first matchup of their respective series with the Caps and Jets. With a victory against the Jets tonight, the Habs would be but three wins short of a division sweep. Without their full lineup, however, the Canadiens' dominance of the Jets and their compatriots will be tested.
The Canadiens restrained themselves from making any significant deadline moves, picking up only dependable depth defenceman Davis Drewiske. The Jets had a similar day, making no significant moves. Their fan-base seems disenchanted with this course of action, though it does appear to position them for their next strategic goal.
With Price in net for last night's game, look for Peter Budaj to get the start for tonight's game. Budaj has posted a .902 save percentage in his three career starts against the Jets, and has yet to collect a victory against the Men from Manitoba in those three tries. The Jets have received similar production from their goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, who is just under .500 in his 10 starts against the Canadiens. Pavelec has a .907 save percentage in those ten games, which is more or less on par with his work this season and over the breadth of his career.
Check out our good friends at Arctic Ice Hockey for the view from the other side.