Game Day Preview: Blake Wheeler and the Jets seek consistency

The Hockey News

By Kyle Larkin

After a busy night on Thursday, the NHL dials down to two games on Friday night. The Blues play the back half of consecutive-day games, while the high-flying Ducks host division rival Phoenix.

St. Louis at Winnipeg
The Blues avoided losing two straight with a comeback victory against Chicago in the shootout to improve to 5-1-0 last night. Playing Winnipeg in the second game of a back-to-back should be a bit of a relief as the Jets sit in a tie for last within the Central Division. Jaroslav Halak has started all six games for the Blues, but will sit in place of sturdy backup Brian Elliott tonight. The Jets, who may be without Evander Kane, are searching for an offensive spark after scoring just seven goals in the past five games.

David Backes has scored four goals in his past four games, but sits one behind team leader Alexander Steen overall. (

Ondrej Pavelec is looking to avoid his fifth consecutive loss. Two defensemen – Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien – lead the team in points with six. (

Player to Watch: Blake Wheeler had 19 goals in 48 games last season, but is off to a slow start with just one so far. Wheeler will be kicking his wheels into second gear to get back on track.

Phoenix at Anaheim
The Ducks are off to a flying start winning five in a row since dropping their opener. They sit in a three-way tie for second in the tightly packed Pacific division. Over the course of the win streak, Anaheim has outscored opponents 20-8. Phoenix sits just one point behind Anaheim thanks to an extra game played, sporting a 4-2-1 record. The Coyotes have reeled off points in four consecutive games.

Defense has been Anaheim’s strong suit, which has saved the behinds of the power play crew who have managed a league-worst 4.3 percent conversion rate on the man advantage. (

The Coyotes went 4-1-0 against the Ducks last season. Rob Klinkhammer holds the hot hand for Phoenix with three goals in two games. (

Player to Watch: How can you not go with Teemu Selanne? People thought this might be the year he’d finally start to slow down, especially after being held pointless through two games. But then he goes and puts up four points over his past three and shuts everyone up.