Soaring Jets host Sabres
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.
By that logic, the Winnipeg Jets took a significant step towards their goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup next spring by beating last season’s champs, the Washington Capitals, 3-1 Wednesday night at Bell MTS Place.
It wasn’t a Rebrandt by any means — it can’t be when you have two shots on goal in the first period, one of which came from your own zone and was practically moving backwards when it was gently brushed aside by the goalie — but the Jets got stronger as the game wore on and did a good job of neutralizing sniper Alex Ovechkin and keeping virtually all of his teammates’ rushes to the outside of the rink.
Defenseman Josh Morrissey was his usual tower of strength in shutting down the high-octane Capitals attack but his body slam of forward T.J. Oshie late in the third period left his participation in Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres in doubt. The two got tangled up battling for the puck and it appeared the Jets rearguard could just as easily have ended up on the bottom. No penalty was assessed on the play.
He had a phone hearing with the league on Thursday afternoon and avoided a suspension but was handed a fine of nearly $8,500.
Jets coach Paul Maurice continues to play around with his forward units but it looks as if right winger Patrik Laine — who has spent time on all four lines over the past couple of weeks — has found a place on the second line. For now.
“It’s not about one player or one line. There are different skills sets with each player and different levels of experience and that has to get balanced out. We want the speed balanced out, too, that’s important for each line. We’ve moved him around an awful lot. It’s all about balance and trying to give players the chance to play their best game,” he said after practice on Thursday morning.
The Jets have won three straight games since returning from the Global Series in Helsinki to improve to 11-5-1.
The Sabres (10-6-2) are riding a three-game winning streak of their own, including Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over perennial powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning, and a pair of come-from-behind wins over the Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks. “They’ve been one of the top teams over the last few years,” Zach Bogosian, a former Jets defenseman, said at a post-practice scrum on Thursday. “I thought we probably didn’t play our best game, but we found a way to win. That’s the important thing. Moving forward, we know we can close out games like that.”
Jets backup goalie Laurent Brossoit will start for the first time in seven games against the Sabres. He’s 3-0 with a goals-against average of 1.68 and a save percentage of .957. Across the ice in the opposing crease, it’s expected starter Carter Hutton will get the call for the Sabres. He has a record of 4-4-1 and a .993 save percentage in 10 career games against the Jets.