The Blues have a couple of guys whose hometown is Winnipeg. Ryan Reaves, whose father was Willard Reaves of the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers, will be making his first appearance in front of his hometown crowd. Alex Steen, who will not be playing due to concussion, is the son of former Winnipeg Jets v. 1.0 forward Thomas Steen. The elder Steen is currently a city councilperson for Winnipeg, and his number remains retired by the Phoenix Coyotes after their move from Winnipeg in 1996. He's a beloved local hero, but don't expect the locals to cut his son's team any slack.
The crowd at the MTS Centre, while fairly small by NHL arena standards, is a loud and tough place to play in, cutting opponents and their goaltenders no mercy. Watching a Jets game on TV is like watching a Tina Turner concert in the Thunderdome, only they boo the opposition's heroes. Every game, Jets fans zero in on the visitor's best player and boo them mercilessly, and chances are very good that today's target is David Backes. Booing Backes though might wake a sleeping beast. He hasn't had a goal since February 14th, and plays extremely well under adverse conditions.
Blues' forward David Perron, who is very excited by all of the hockey love in Winnipeg, had this to say on Twitter Friday:
Congrats to the city of Winnipeg for bringing back an NHL team!!! It will be fun tomorrow playing against the Jets for the 1st time— David Perron (@DP_57) February 24, 2012
While this is a common misconception, the Blues have played the Jets many times. No, not from back when the NHL had cool conference names like the Campbell and Wales, but from more recent times -- like as recently as last season. The Blues and Atlanta Thrashers never had a rivalry, and the Blues usually managed to defeat them. All-time against the Thrashers (and now the Jets), the Blues are 8-3-1-2. The last game these two teams played on December 21st, 2010 was a Blues 4-2 victory over former starting goaltender Chris Mason. Hopefully the Blues who played with Mason still remember his tendencies, because the soft goal a game ratio went up to 4 that time.
Mason this season has been playing much better than last. He has a .910 SV% and a 2.30 GAA in 13 starts, of which he's won seven. The Jets, though, will be going up against Jaroslav Halak. Halak has one fewer shutout than Mason has wins, and has a .923 SV% with a teeny 1.97 GAA, good for fourth in the league. Halak'll have to hold off Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who has had two goals in two games straight, as well as the currently en fuego Bryan Little. Little has seven points in his last five games played, with two back to back two goal performances coming against Boston and Colorado, both in Winnipeg.
Also potentially lethal is Evander Kane. Kane, who was slumping earlier this month, has roared back with a vengeance. He has goals in three straight games and five in his last five. Tack on three assists, and he might be someone that the Blues' defense might want to pay attention to. No costly turnovers a la Wednesday's to the Boston Bruins would be nice, because the outcome against the Jets'll be very similar.
The Blues are coming off a 3-2 shootout win over their divisional rivals, the Nashville Predators. If the Blues can beat Pekka Rinne in a shootout, well, anything's possible. Points on this roadtrip would be a place to start.
Tonight's game is a very early afternoon one, with puckdrop at 1:00 Central.