Enstrom: ‘Tonight’s the biggest game of the season’
PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
|It’s the seventh game of an eight-game homestand that’s seen the Jets win three of six, and pick up single points in two others. (REUTERS/Fred Greenslade)
The Winnipeg Jets’ 17-game push for a playoff spot begins at home, tonight, against the division rival Florida Panthers.
And it begins with the Jets as healthy as they’ve been all season, with defenceman Zach Bogosian returning to the lineup and nobody left on the injured list.
That means game-to-game lineup decisions will be based entirely on who’s playing well, and who isn’t — just the way head coaches like it.
“This is about performance,” Jets boss Claude Noel said, this morning. “You can really create this inner competition within your team. We don’t have time to wait anymore. We need your A-game, and it’s that simple.”
Noel has two extra defencemen and one extra forward at his disposal.
Newcomer Grant Clitsome is one of the blue liners not expected to play tonight.
Florida has been hit hard with injuries, the most costly coming to leading scorer Kris Versteeg, who’s been a particular thorn in the Jets’ side with six goals in four games.
“He’s really hurt us, so maybe that’s a slight — I wouldn’t say it’s a slight advantage, but it’s something that we feel better he’s not in the game,” Noel said.
It’s the seventh game of an eight-game homestand that’s seen the Jets win three of six, and pick up single points in two others.
The Panthers have won three straight, building their lead atop the Southeast Division to three points on Washington, four on Winnipeg.
Florida also has three games in hand on the Jets, while the Capitals have two.
“Tonight’s the biggest game of the season for us,” Jets forward Blake Wheeler said. “And when this one’s over the next one’s probably going to be the next biggest game ... for the rest of the way it’s going to be that way, as long as keep ourselves in the mix.”