Hockey returns to Winnipeg as Jets host Canadiens
CANADIENS (0-1-0) at JETS (0-0-0)
TV: CBC, RDS (HD), NHLN-US
First of four meetings. The organizations split the four-game series last season -- when the Winnipeg Jets were called the Atlanta Thrashers. Montreal won the last two meetings, however, by a combined 6-2. In the most recent matchup on March 29, Roman Hamrlik and Mathieu Darche
scored 11 seconds apart in the first when the Canadiens opened a 2-0 lead. Carey Price
made 27 saves, losing his shutout bid 8:35 into the third on a goal by Atlanta's Nik Antropov.
Professional hockey returns to Winnipeg following a 15-year hiatus, so expect a loud and raucous reception when the hometown Jets walk down the runway and onto the ice at the 15,004-seat MTS Centre, which is sold out for at least the next three years.
"It's great for the fans to show such great appreciation for your play on the ice and what you do off the ice," forward Evander Kane told The Canadian Press. "It makes you feel good, gives you an extra boost and it makes you just want to win that much more. That can only help in the wins and loss column."
Montreal is hoping to bounce back from a season-opening 2-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday when Price turned aside 16 of 18 shots. Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban
had a particularly rough outing as he was caught up ice on a shorthanded goal in the second period and later turned the puck over on another in the third. He finished a minus-2. The Canadiens outshot the Leafs 14-4 in the first, but couldn't solve goalie James Reimer.
"We dominated the first period, but our mistake at the start of the second when they got their shorthanded goal changed our style of game," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "They used that goal to take advantage of the period on our turnover."
Look for first-year coach Claude Noel to have Bryan Little centering left wing Andrew Ladd and right wing Blake Wheeler to open the game. Ladd, the team's captain, led the club with 29 goals and 59 points in 81 games in 2010-11. Russian Alexander Burmistrov will likely orchestrate the second line with Kane and Antropov. The organization's first-round draft choice, Mark Scheifele, inked a three-year entry-level contract earlier this month. He produced 4 goals and 8 points in five preseason games -- second among all players in the exhibition season behind Dallas' Mike Ribeiro (10 points). Defensively, the Jets return six players from last year's unit, including Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart and Johnny Oduya. One of the organization's top prospects, center Patrice Cormier, was sent to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in St. John's after the club claimed Brett MacLean off waivers from the Phoenix Coyotes.
Kane, drafted No. 4 in 2009, had 14 goals and 26 points in his rookie season and produced 19 goals and 43 points in 2010-11. He'll need to continue the upward scoring swing if Winnipeg looks to improve upon its 2.66 goals per game average of a season ago.
Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov
(right knee), who missed all but seven games last season after tearing his ACL, is out. Defenseman Chris Campoli
, who left with an undisclosed lower-body injury in the second period against the Leafs, is questionable. … The Jets placed Eric Fehr (shoulder) and Aaron Gagnon (undisclosed) on injured reserve while Kenndal McArdle (undisclosed) and Ben Maxwell (undisclosed) are listed as day-to-day.
Following Montreal's 2-0 loss to Toronto on Thursday, Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette astutely pointed out that in 12 NHL season-openers between the teams dating back nine decades, the Canadiens had never been shut out by the Maple Leafs -- until Thursday's "unlucky" 13th encounter.
How excited are fans to have hockey back in Manitoba? In the Jets' first preseason game on Sept. 20, the MTS Centre scoreboard read: "In 2011, the NHL Returned to the Greatest Fans in the World."
When asked what he expects from the fans on Sunday, Ladd said, "I'm sure they'll be ready to blow the roof off."