Hockey is back in Winnipeg and the whole country knows it. From the months leading up to True North’s acquisition of the Thrashers to the drafting of Mark Scheifele in June and the unveiling of the new logo, this city has been eager for what Sunday will bring: the return of NHL hockey. The crowds have packed the MTS Iceplex for pre-season games and practices, welcoming the new faces of their franchise and their city.
For the Canadiens who were shutout and embarrassed by Toronto on Thursday, it won’t get any easier. The Canadiens had the early pressure in Toronto, but the inability to finish early on, coupled with the Leafs’ short handed goal in the 2nd period, let the wind out of their collective sails and made the final 38 minutes almost unbearable to watch. Despite the little effort of the skaters in front of him, Carey Price kept the game close with a couple of big saves in the 2nd and 3rd.
Line-up changes are a guarantee for Sunday as Alexei Emelin should draw into the line-up, replacing Chris Campoli, who was injured in the 2nd period when he stretched and awkwardly collided with the net behind Price.
Campoli joins an already busy medical room filled with Ryan White (groin), Lars Eller (shoulder), Blair Betts (lower-body), Andrei Markov (knee).
The medical team of the Jets has not been without work, tending to Eric Fehr (shoulder) out indefinitely, as well as Kenndal McArdle and Ben Maxwell, both questionable for Sunday’s game. Maxwell, the former Canadiens forward, was traded to Atlanta late last season in a pre-deadline deal that brought Brent Sopel back to bolster the Canadiens injury-riddled defence core.
HW Victory Keys
Survive the wave of pressure that the Jets will surely start out with in their first game. The fans will be as loud as the Bell Centre faithful and might not find their seats all game long.
Play the north-south style required to be successful, and ensure that constant back pressure is put on the big fast Jets forwards. The ability of the Habs defence core is a question mark at the moment, with Diaz and Emelin both lacking experience and the declining stamina of both Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill.
Shot selection: Ondrej Pavelec is a fantastic goalie and has incredible size; just shooting from anywhere will be useless, the Habs will want to get him moving and ensure there is traffic for the very few good rebounds he will allow.
1. The last time the Canadiens played in Winnipeg, the Habs won 6-5. Ed Olczyk scored a hat trick for the Jets, and Turner Stevenson had 3 assists for the Canadiens.
2. The Habs have only lost once in six Sunday visits to Winnipeg.
3. Atlanta has now twice moved an NHL franchise to Canada, previously the Flames in 1980 and now the Jets 31 years later.
4. The Canadiens have not lost the 1st two games of the season since the 2000-2001 season when they dropped 8-4 to New Jersey and 2-0 to the Leafs.