WINNIPEG – Both teams on the ice for Thursday’s Habs-Jets tilt will be playing desperate hockey – but for very different reasons.
While the situations that both teams find themselves in heading into Thursday night’s match-up at the MTS Centre couldn’t be more dissimilar, the two clubs are expected to produce the same brand of desperate hockey come puck drop. Playing their final game of the 2012-13 calendar, the Jets sit one point out of playoff contention, with the next two teams ahead of them both having games on hand. To have a chance at the second season, Winnipeg must beat the Canadiens.
The Habs, on the other hand, having secured a playoff berth some time ago, will be battling not only for points to clinch home-ice advantage, but also to get a boost of confidence from a big win over a desperate team.
“They’re fighting to stay alive right now, and on top of that, it’s their last game of the season too. We know that tonight should really resemble a playoff atmosphere. It’s going to be a good test for us and we’re going to have to come prepared to play our best hockey,” said Colby Armstrong, following an optional morning skate in Winnipeg. The 30-year-old winger will be playing in his second game back with the Habs since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 10 games.
“We’ve come up against a few desperate teams in our last couple of games and what we’ve learned is that if we don’t show up ready and at our best, we’re not just going to lose, but lose badly,” he added, well aware of what a win Thursday night could mean for team morale. “We’re going to be expecting their best hockey tonight, and from our end, we haven’t been where we want to be lately and this needs to push us to a better performance.”
Fans can expect to see a little more size added to the Habs’ lineup when they square off against the hard-hitting Jets, as rookie Jarred Tinordi will be reinserted into the team’s defensive corps in lieu of Yannick Weber.
“I learned a lot from my first stint here and I tried to put it all into practice when I went back to Hamilton. All I’m looking to do is play to my strengths and play my style of hockey,” shared Tinordi, who will be counted on to bring a physical presence to the ice as part of a defensive pairing with veteran Francis Bouillon. “I’m really excited to play and I want to help this team head into the playoffs playing strong hockey.”
After nabbing two wins against the Jets in Montreal this season, the Habs will face Winnipeg on home-ice for the first time in 2012-13 and are expecting nothing less than the best the Manitoba squad has to offer.
“The Jets are a team that plays very well at home and we’re aware of that. They’ve had some trouble on the road and we took advantage of that, but we believe tonight’s going to be a different game,” said head coach Michel Therrien, who was clear about what his team had riding on the game’s outcome after having held a high-tempo, 60 minute practice the day before. “For us, honestly, we need to make sure that we bring our game back where we expect it to be. I think the purpose of tonight’s game is going to be very different for both teams. We obviously want to win, but also to bring our game to the level that we feel we’ll be able to have success in the playoffs. That’s the most important thing for us.”
“They’re playing for their lives, so we’re expecting an intense game and an emotional game from both sides,” he added. “Every time teams play in this building, it’s always a great place to play because of the emotion of the fans, so tonight should really be something.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
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