The Winnipeg Jets start a four game homestand tonight with their first of two games against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 p.m. central time at Bell MTS Place.
This two-game series is the first meeting this season between the Jets and Canadiens. The Jets come into Thursday’s game having won their last two games, and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
The Canadiens are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and have lost their last three games including an overtime loss to the last place Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. The loss on Tuesday ultimately cost head coach Claude Julien his job as the team and Montreal replaced him on Wednesday with assistant coach Domanique Ducharme.
Winnipeg Jets forward Pierre Luc Dubois had a breakout game against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday
These two games are important as the Jets currently sit one point ahead of the Canadiens in the standings. We knew these two games were going to be a test for the Jets as the Canadiens until recently were one of the hottest teams in the North division.
Unfortunately for the Jets, the two games should be even more challenging as the Canadiens players will likely respond to the strong message sent to them from general manager Marc Bergeron with the firing of their head coach.
Tonight should be intense and provides a great chance for the Jets to silence some of the criticisms leveled at them pertaining to their record being partly due to a soft schedule to date.
The Action network lists the Jets as the underdogs in tonight’s matchup.
Playing the first game against a team with a new head coach is always tough as players have a combination of fear/motivation to prove that the reasons they were underachieving were due to the previous head coach.
Where you can Find the Game
TV: TSN3, TSN2. RDS
Radio: 680 CJOB
Livestream: TSN.ca, TSN app
Winnipeg Jets 11-6-1
This is one of the games where I will really miss having fans in attendance at the arena. Winnipeg Jets games at Bell MTS Place against the Canadiens are always raucous affairs where a significant portion of the crowd are wearing the bleu-rouge-blanc of the Canadiens, and the remainder of the fans are trying to drown them out with “Go Jets Go” chants.
To reiterate, playing a team the first game after they have replaced their head coach is not ideal. In some ways, this game becomes almost a must win game for the Canadiens. The Jets need to be prepared for a game with playoff intensity.
As of Wednesday, defenseman Tucker Poolman was listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. If he is unable to play, expect Logan Stanley to step into the lineup on the bottom pair with Nathan Beaulieu.
On Wednesday at practice, Sami Niku was getting some time pairing with Beaulieu as well, so we may see Niku getting into his second game of the season with the Jets.
The Jets cannot afford to repeat an all too familiar pattern this season by starting the game slowly and mounting a late game comeback against a team as talented and motivated as the Canadiens. Let’s hope the home side comes out flying and matches the intensity of the visiting team.
The Jets are projected to lineup like this:
Montreal Canadiens 9-5-4
After starting out as one of the best teams in the North division, the Canadiens cooled off significantly dropping from first place to fourth place. Claude Julien and Kirk Muller were both fired on Wednesday, replaced with interim head coach Dominique Ducharme who is joined by new assistant coach Alex Burrows.
Ducharme has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Canadiens and was the head coach for Canada during the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2017 and 2018, winning silver and then gold.
Julien justifiably took some heat as the Canadiens play deteriorated throughout the season culminating in a squad that had poor special teams play and were prone to taking bad, undisciplined penalties.
Some of the blame must fall on goaltender Carey Price who at the time of the firing was sporting a .893 save percentage along with a 2.96 goals against average.
Like most teams who experience a mid-season coaching change, I expect the Canadiens to come out flying trying to prove to the fanbase that the former head coach, not the players, was the problem.
The Canadiens are expected to lineup like this:
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*All Stats Provided by the NHL*