Winnipeg Jets (33-22-12) at Florida Panthers (29-23-14)
|Date & Time||Thursday March 12, 2015, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Florida Panthers / Winnipeg Jets --- Over/Under:
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With 15 games remaining in their season the Winnipeg Jets look to finish the season strong and ultimately with a playoff berth. The Jets have been in a playoff spot for a while now but with other clubs around them surging, their grasp on a spot is getting slimmer. Winnipeg currently finds itself occupying the final wild card spot but they’re just one point ahead of Calgary and Los Angeles. Both of those clubs have played one fewer game than the Jets and are battling for the third position in the Pacific Division. Winnipeg has been alternating wins and losses for a while now and Tuesday night they came up on the short end of a very entertaining hockey game. Michael Frolik gave the Jets a 1-0 lead in the first period as the Jets traveled to St. Louis to take on the Blues. St. Louis responded with a power play goal to even the score heading to the second. The middle frame is where the Blues took over, chasing Matt Hutchinson after scoring four times on their first seven shots. The Blues took the lead 31 seconds into the period and then scored goals just over a minute apart to make it a 4-1 game and send Hutchinson to the showers. Winnipeg mounted a strange comeback in the third period that started with Andrew Ladd’s power play goal at 1:34 of the third period. Lee Stempniak made it a one goal game with his 10th of the season coming just 11 seconds later. St. Louis was able to settle things down but the Jets got even when Blake Wheeler scored short handed with under six minutes remaining. It looked like a great opportunity for the Jets to steal at least a point, or even two if they could find a way to win in overtime, but they couldn’t get it there. The Blues scored with just over a minute remaining in regulation to send the Jets to a painful 5-4 regulation loss. They were points that the Jets probably didn’t deserve to get, but the fact that they rallied and put themselves in a position to do so makes it that much more frustrating. Now they need to bounce back in a big way as their road trip continues in Florida.
The Florida Panthers are in a similar position to the Jets, except they’re one of the clubs on the outside looking in. The Panthers failed to capitalize on Boston’s recent struggles, and now that the Bruins have found their game again the Panthers are just doing everything they can to keep up. Florida currently trails Boston by six points in the standings. The Panthers have lost six of their last nine games. The club should be nice and rested for this one against Winnipeg because they haven’t played since last Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders. The two clubs went back and forth all night long before the Panthers finally won it in the skills competition. Jonathan Huberdeau’s 11th goal of the season gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead in the third period, but the Islanders rallied to tie it and force overtime. Huberdeau scored the only goal in the shootout and Dan Ellis stopped all three shooters he faced to help Florida secure the win. Erik Gudbranson and Nick Bjugstad also scored for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo is still questionable for Thursday night’s game so there’s a chance that Ellis might be in net against for Florida. Ellis can’t be trusted, though he did handle himself better than expected against a very good offensive club last Saturday. Time is slipping away very quickly from the Panthers and they can’t lose home games if they’re going to find a way to get back in the race.
This is game both teams need to win. The Panthers should have plenty of energy with their long layoff but sometimes that’s a curse more than a blessing. Winnipeg needs to find a way to score early and take advantage of what might be a sluggish group of Panthers as they return to the ice.