Two games in three days makes the Winnipeg Jets a tired team. At least that’s what Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates thinks will be the case for Tuesday night’s Southeast Division showdown.
“They should be a little tired,” Oates said, unprompted, Monday. “They’ve had a lot of games at home, they’ve won a bunch. A lot of the games are very stressful. It’s a stressful time. We should be in a little bit better frame of mind than them.”
The Jets are 6-0-1 in their past seven games, beaten only by the New York Islanders in a shootout Saturday.
“They’re playing great hockey right now,” defenseman Mike Green said. “We’ve got to make sure that we match their push. They cant come into our building and take two points, that’s for sure.”
Winnipeg has plenty of momentum and desperation. That makes the start key for the Caps.
“You try and get on them quick,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “If you get on them quick and you stall their momentum from their win last night, get our crowd into it, it can suck the life out of them and can make it so that they might not want to continue playing. Anything that you can do to squash their excitement and their momentum is what you have to.”
Oates wondered if that might happen no matter what. Asked how his team could capitalize on the Jets’ fatigue, the Caps’ coach said “it just shows itself.”
“A team is maybe a little sloppy because they’re a little tired,” Oates said. “Even though the importance of the game, I’m sure they’ll get some energy from that. But for us for 60 minutes, we’ve had the benefit of a little bit of rest that they haven’t, so hopefully it’ll show itself.”
Oates said he probably won’t address the Jets’ tiredness with his team. Instead, his goal lately has been trying to keep his players “fresh mentally” because the stretch run is a grind.
Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec will make his 42nd start of the season in game No. 47 for the Jets. He’s 2-4 with a 3.52 goals-against average and .880 save percentage in the second half of back-to-backs.
Meanwhile, the Caps haven’t played since trouncing the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. But defenseman Jack Hillen doesn’t think that will be a factor vs. Winnipeg.
“Generally you’d think off of a back-to-backer you’d say ‘Hey – let’s get on this team early, let’s try to force them out, tire them out,’ ” Hillen said. “But honestly in a game with this magnitude I don’t think that’s really going to be an issue for them. I think they’ll have plenty of energy. So I think you just throw that out the window.”