By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
The Winnipeg Jets (9-9-2) will take on the Philadelphia Flyers (7-10-1) tonight in a battle of teams on three-game winning streaks. Both teams struggled early in the season only to find resurgence over the past couple of weeks.
It will be a tough test for the Jets who face a Flyers team that has gone 4-0-1 in their last five road games – a statistic that has not gone unnoticed by Blake Wheeler and his teammates.
“They are going good, they have a lot of good players,” said Wheeler. “I think everyone was waiting for them to come around; they aren’t a group that has much quit in them.
“This is going to be one of our tougher games, they are going good right now – they beat some really good teams recently – it is going to be a great match up, they always are when we play these guys.”
Jets’ netminder Ondrej Pavelec knows a thing or two about playing the Flyers. The Czech-born Pavelec was shelled for seven goals-against in a memorable first meeting in the Jets’ inaugural season and understands the threat of the Flyers’ offence.
“Of course, I remember that game – we won 9-8!” said Pavelec. “They play offensive style, they have pretty good guys in the lineup, they can score you goals. I think for us it is going to be about how we are going to play defence, I think that they are a powerhouse so we will see.”
Pavelec has seen some good things in front of him over his teams’ recent success.
“We were able to just put some games together,” Pavelec said. “The battle level was really good and the last few games we had a good start — that is very important — to show them that you are ready to go, ready to play. We need a better start again tonight.”
Complacency is always a lingering factor when a team is winning but Wheeler was having none of it.
“We are .500,” Wheeler said. “I don’t know why you would be satisfied being .500, so that should do it right there.”
Meanwhile, Mark Stuart resumed practicing with the team Friday morning. Both Claude Noel and Stuart himself said that there is no timetable as of yet for his return but he has been skating for the past week with fellow injured defenceman Jacob Trouba.
“It is just nice to be out there again with them, they are playing so well right now and it is just fun to be a part of it,” said Stuart. “You don’t realize how much you miss it until you are out. I have been here before, I know how hard it is, but until you get back out there with them you don’t realize how much you’ve missed it.”