It’s first versus worst in Hollywood tonight, as the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets (42-25-4) open their road trip against the Los Angeles Kings (25-38-8, 8th Pacific).
The Jets are 5-5-0 over their last 10 games but have won their last two. This is the first of a three-game road trip that will also take them to Anaheim and Las Vegas later this week. The Kings, on the other hand, have lost two in a row, are have just two wins over their last 10 games (2-6-2). This is the third game in their five-game homestand.
The Kings actually won the last game between these two teams, a 4-1 drubbing back on December 18th. But to no surprise now, Winnipeg is a big favorite on the road, listed at -180.
Time for Takeoff
Even though they are beginning a road trip, playing a last-place team like the Kings will be a good feeling for the Jets. Winnipeg is coming off of eight consecutive games against playoff teams, in which they went 5-3. Thanks to their steady play, the Jets maintain a one-point lead over the Predators for first place in the Central Division.
The Jets are one of the best scoring teams in the country, ranking sixth in goals scored and fifth in shooting percentage. They’re a team that wins with offense, since they allow just the 14th-fewest goals and sit third-to-last in shots allowed.
Blake Wheeler has a team-leading 87 points, 67 of them via assists. Mark Scheifele is next with 79 points, but after that there is a steep drop off to Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine with 53 and 48 points.
Connor Hellebuyck is expected to start for the Jets. Hellebuyck is 30-20-2 with a 2.97 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
This season has not exactly gone as-planned for the Kings. Los Angeles started the season 2-7-1, one of those losses coming to the Jets, and have been stuck in the cellar ever since. With 58 points, they’re 11 points behind the Ducks, the second-worst team in the West.
Offense has been the issue, whether it was under fired head coach John Stevens or interim coach Willie Desjardins. Los Angeles ranks 30th in goals and shots, and 31st in in shooting percentage. They’re a little better defensively, but still rank 22nd in goals allowed and 14th in shots allowed.
Captain Anze Kopitar leads the team with 20 goals and 50 points, followed by 41 points from Dustin Brown and 40 points from Drew Doughty. Just one other player (Ilya Kovalchuk) has reached the 30-point mark for the Kings.
Jonathan Quick is expected to start for the Kings. Quick is 13-21-6 with a 3.30 GAA and .891 save percentage.
Crazy things happen on a nightly basis, and the Jets are barely above .500 on the road this season. But Winnipeg’s strong offense coupled with their advantage in goaltending and break from playing quality opponents should spell victory for Winnipeg. I pick the Jets to win -180.