Four wins in five games is certainly something to never belittle; but to do this on the road after losing three straight? Yeah, that’s an accomplishment.
The Winnipeg Jets find themselves with that record as they return to the MTS Centre tonight for a game against the New Jersey Devils, followed by a Saturday matinee with the Washington Capitals.
The Jets accomplished this road streak despite being down two of their top 6 defencemen. Tobias Enstrom, who had been the team’s top scorer, did not make the trip after being injured earlier in the month, and Zach Redmond suffered a season ending (and near life-threatening) gash to his leg during practice in Carolina. The good news for Redmond is that he’s back home now recuperating.
Along the way the Jets got inspired play from the men that needed to step up, namely Evander Kane. Over the five games of the road trip, Kane popped five goals, including a pair in the Tuesday victory over the New York Rangers. He now sits just one goal back of Andrew Ladd for the team lead.
The Devils come into Winnipeg with a big question mark. With Martin Brodeur out with back problems, Johan Hedberg – no stranger to Winnipeg – gets the call.
Hedberg got the most important run of his North American career started in Winnipeg during the days of the Manitoba Moose in the IHL. Hedberg was called up to Pittsburgh during the 2000-01 NHL season and went on an absolute tear, earning the nickname “Moose” in part because of the mask he brought with him from Manitoba. It was one of two stings Johan Hedberg had in Winnipeg, the second coming while the team was in the AHL as an affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.
But as good as Johan Hedberg was back then, he’s not the same goalie today, and Evander Kane could feast on him and push his point streak to a career high nine games.
The news gets even better for the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday as the Washington Capitals come to town for the first of three games in Winnipeg in March. The Capitals have struggled mightily this season and word continues to buzz about the future of the club, especially as the NHL Trade Deadline looms. The Capitals have a miserable 7-11-1 record this season, well below expectations and are at the bottom of the Southeast Division.
Combining these two games together, the Jets look to have another four points on their record, which could establish the club as the sole owners of top spot in the Southeast Division. While Tampa Bay and Carolina own similar records to the Jets (albeit the Hurricanes have a game in hand), the battle cry of the Jets this year is to get into the playoffs, and with the impressive performances elsewhere in the conference, there may be no other way to get in than to win the Southeast Division crown.