The NHL returns after taking a three day break on Thursday night. A total of thirteen games are on the board for December 27. One of the top games for the night will be between the top two teams in the Western Conference. The Winnipeg Jets will host the Calgary Flames in a Canadian battle on Thursday night.
Calgary has started out the season with a record of 22-12-3, which has them in first place of the Pacific Division. The Flames have hit a bit of a rough patch recently. Calgary has lost three games in a row to the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Louis Blues. The Flames will look to turn this losing streak around with a road win on Thursday night.
The Jets have earned the top spot in the Western Conference, with a record of 24-10-2. Winnipeg has won two games in a row and eleven of their last thirteen. The Jets were near the top of the league last season as well, which shows how good they have been recently. Winnipeg will look to get a larger lead at the top of the conference with a win on Thursday night.
Thursday night’s game between the Flames and the Jets will be the second matchup of the season. Calgary and Winnipeg will meet one more time on March 16. These two teams are battling for the top spot in the Western Conference right now, which means any point that these teams can take from each other could play a huge part in the final standings.
The Flames and the Jets met up three times last season. The first game was held in Calgary, where the Flames were able to take a 6-3 win. The second game was also hosted by the Flames, but Winnipeg won 2-1. In the final game of the season, the Jets won 2-1 again. Winnipeg took the season series 2-1 in route to a second place finish in the Central Division, while the Flames missed the playoffs.
Calgary hosted the first game of the season series on November 21. The Jets opened up the scoring, but the Flames bounced back with five goals in the first period. Patrik Laine had a two-goal performance, but it was not enough for Winnipeg. Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Jankowski, and Matthew Tkachuk each had a goal and an assist as Calgary coasted to a 6-3 win.
These two teams have tied the season series 2-2 over the last two seasons. Last season the Jets were clearly the better team, but this season both teams are very competitive in the Western Conference. I believe that this will lead to a tight contest matchup in Winnipeg on Thursday night.
The Flames have had a solid power play this season, scoring on 22.5 percent of their opportunities. Calgary’s penalty kill has been near the league average. The Flames have stopped 80 percent of their opponent’s power-play chances. Calgary has done really well offensively on the penalty kill this season, scoring 9 shorthanded goals.
Winnipeg has had one of the best power plays this season. The Jets have scored on 28.7 percent of their power play chances. Winnipeg’s penalty kill has also been really solid this season, stopping opposing team’s 81.5 percent of the time. The Jets will look to use their advantage on special teams to propel them to the win.
The Jets have a clear advantage on special teams in this matchup. Calgary has been solid on both sides of special teams, but will need a big night from their team if they are going to win. The Flames have a more aggressive penalty kill, which will need to be careful to avoid give Winnipeg’s lethal power play any extra opportunities.
I believe that David Rittich will start for the Flames on Thursday night. Rittich has done a really good job this season stepping up for a struggling Mike Smith. He has posted a .923 save percentage and a GAA of 2.29. In his 17 starts, Rittich has put up a record of 11-4-2 this season. He will look to put up another good performance in a pivotal matchup against the Jets.
Winnipeg will likely have Connor Hellebuyck start in net on Thursday night. Hellebuyck has earned a record of 16-9-1 in his 26 games played. He has put up a save percentage of .909 and a 2.90 GAA this season. Hellebuyck earned himself a Vezina Trophy nomination last season, but has not been quite as good this season. He will look to improve those numbers with a big performance against the Flames on Thursday night.
Rittich has had a better start to the season than Connor Hellebuyck stat wise. Hellebuyck is the better goalie though in my opinion. If Rittich can put up numbers like what he is averaging this season, I believe he could help lead the Flames to a road win.
Calgary is coming into Thursday night’s game on a three-game losing streak, but I believe they have a good chance to turn it around with a win in Winnipeg. The Flames have a solid special teams’ unit that could matchup with the Jets. Calgary could also have the edge in net if Rittich puts up solid numbers again.
BetOnline has Winnipeg listed as a -131 against the money line. This implies that the Jets will win this game around 57 percent of the time. I believe that this should be closer to even. Both teams are near the top of the Western Conference standings. On top of that, these two teams are tied 2-2 against each other in the last two seasons. I believe there is a lot of value in the Flames as an underdog.