When the Winnipeg Jets roll into Prudential Center Thursday night to take on the New Jersey Devils, they’ll be ecstatic to have Evander Kane back in the lineup.
Kane, who was injured early in the Jets season opening 6-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes, will be back alongside young gun Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and be looking to give the Jets a offense a much-needed boost.
This young season hasn’t gone quite to plan for Winnipeg, and Kane’s injury was certainly a road bump. As things have finally started to turn around, the news of Kane coming back is huge and for one big reason: to help turn around the team’s shooting percentage and keep them in the win column.
As it stands, the Jets – who, to their credit, have rattled off wins in three of their last four games – are 22nd in the league in team shooting percentage. Following their six-goal outburst over the Coyotes on opening night, the Jets were able to muster just two goals in their next four contests, getting shutout at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators along the way.
The adage is an adage for a reason, and you truly can’t win if you don’t score. It was previously thought the Jets couldn’t score enough to make up for their lacklustre goaltending, but the script has flipped and their goaltending can’t wait for them to score.
What Kane brings back to the lineup is a nose for the next and a scoring instinct that is almost unmatched on the Jets roster. Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little can produce points on a consistent basis, if its game-breaking talent Winnipeg is looking for, they’re going to look Kane’s way.
Before the season had even begun, Kane was speculating about his ability to become one of the league’s premier scorers, positing that he could become the next 50-goal scorer in the NHL. Some may scoff at the notion, but there’s more than an outside chance it could happen for the 23-year-old sometime soon. Though he hasn’t come close to the 50-goal plateau in his five-year career, he’s done 30, and the next logical step is that he’ll keep going in that direction.
Many will point to last season, when Kane tallied a mere 19 goals on 250 shots. The more important number, however, is that he shot a career-low 7.6 percent. In two of his first three seasons, he shot above 10 percent, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again. A performance like that from the Jets winger could have him hoisting the Jets onto his back and carrying them to a few stolen victories.
In what many consider the toughest division in hockey, Kane has the opportunity to be the breakout star and prove everyone wrong about Winnipeg’s fate this season. While there are those that believe the bloom is starting to come off the rose in Manitoba’s capital, but if anything, they’re just holding their breath, waiting for Kane to give them a reason to roar.