The focus will be on the new Winnipeg Jets this afternoon as they open their season against the Montreal Canadiens. Although the original Jets folded in 1996, this afternoon’s game marks a huge occasion for a hockey-mad city.
Made up of largely the same roster as last season’s Atlanta Thrashers, the Jets have a great chance to open their season with a bang. Montreal could do with a win themselves after a disappointing season opener against Toronto on Thursday.
The Canadiens were blanked in a dismal display, the first time since 1962 the Habs failed to score in a season opener. In an almost-yearly tradition, Montreal lost a defenseman to injury during their season opener. This time it was new acquisition, Chris Campoli who tore a hamstring. Campoli could be out for months, but is unlikely to need surgery.
Campoli hasn’t had the easiest of starts to life as a Canadien. During a pre-season clash against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Campoli was on the receiving end of a head-shot from Ryan Malone, and now the blue-liner will sit out until at least Christmas.
With all the concerns over Montreal’s quivering defense, the team is in need of goals to ease the pressure. The Habs looked threatening for twenty minutes against the Maple Leafs, but stuttered in front of the immaculate James Reimer for the remainder of the game.
Erik Cole didn’t have the most memorable of debuts for his new team. The power forward was given little opportunity to ruffle any feathers and put pressure on the Toronto defense. The Canadiens’ power play was unsuccessful on five occasions as Head Coach Jacques Martin struggled to find a winning formula. Cole played just over a minute of Montreal’s 8:36 of power play time, when surely putting pressure on the young Reimer may have unlocked the door.
This afternoon’s game is all about the Jets. The fans didn’t want to see the end of their team in 1996, and although Winnipeg’s current team are the Jets only in name, it is a huge moment for the city.
The Jets do have some talent to go with all the excitement. Captain Andrew Ladd, Nik Antropov and Evander Kane will lead the attack on Carey Price, while Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom will have their turn at trying to shutout the Canadiens.