The Jets (14-11-5) are fifth in the Central Division, while the Knights still lead the Western Conference with 44 points in 34 games (22-12-0).
But this game is all about the narratives.
Both Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny will return to Vegas for the first time since getting traded in October 2020.
Schmidt was part of the original expansion draft as Vegas’ selection from Washington. He scored 21 goals and 97 points in three seasons with the Golden Knights.
Stastny scored 30 goals and 80 points across two seasons as a member of the Golden Knights after signing with Vegas in July 2018.
Both departed via trade, with their cap hits going towards the acquisition of Alex Pietrangelo. Schmidt was traded to Vancouver on the same day the Knights agreed to terms with Pietrangelo, who replaced Schmidt as the team’s top defenseman; this left Schmidt quite salty, so he’s sure to be motivated this afternoon and will look to add to his 17-point campaign with the Jets.
But that’s not all.
In all likelihood, today will be a revenge game for Laurent Brossoit as well.
He got 45 starts over three seasons with the Jets before leaving via free agency this past summer. Brossoit is 8-3-0 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .904 save percentage this season; he came within 12 seconds of recording his first shutout with Vegas, but Ryan Getzlaf played spoiler on New Year’s Eve.
Brossoit has started each of the last three games for Vegas and has manned the crease in five out of the last six with Robin Lehner on the shelf.
Brossoit will face what could be a very rusty team, as the Jets haven’t played in two weeks. This will be the club’s third game under new head coach Dave Lowry, who took over bench duties after head coach Paul Maurice resigned after nine seasons with the Jets.
Lowry got his first win as head coach in the Jets’ last game, a 4-2 win against the Blues on Dec. 19. Stastny scored two goals and an assist in the matchup, which is worth noting since he tends to produce against his former teams.
The Golden Knights are 3-4-1 all-time against the Jets, though Vegas won four of five games in the Western Conference Final back in 2018.
Keys to the game
- Fast start: The Jets have not played in two weeks after having five games postponed, so the Knights need to take advantage of any potential rust or hesitation. The Jets rank 24th in the NHL with 21 first-period goals; Vegas is tied for second with 35 (and ranks third and second with 41 and 43 goals in the second and third periods, respectively). Plus, Winnipeg has a win percentage of .250 when giving up the first goal (Vegas sits at .500).
- Power up: The Jets rank 31st in the NHL with a penalty kill operating at 70.6 percent. The Golden Knights continue to thrive on the power play, and it’s something they can look to exploit in today’s matchup.
- Meet at the net: With Winnipeg’s extended hiatus, Lowry was able to run a mini training camp of sorts; the primary focus was net-front play. Winnipeg will be looking to send multiple bodies to the front of the net, particularly given the league’s crackdown on cross-checking. The Jets also want to reduce the number of greasy goals allowed, so it should be a hard-fought game in the dirty areas this afternoon.
- Player to watch: Aside from those seeking revenge, Kyle Connor is one of Winnipeg’s biggest threats. He leads the Jets in all-time scoring against the Knights with eight goals and 13 points in eight games. He also leads the team in goals (18) and points (32) and loves to shoot the puck.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 98.9 FM