JETBLAST: Game Day Preview Feb. 2/12 Jets @ Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Winnipeg Jets

(22-23-4) 48 points (23-22-6) 52 points

11th in East, 4th in Southeast

10th in East, 3rd in Southeast

Lightning

The Bolts are riding a five game winning streak that has them only 4 points behind the Winnipeg Jets and with two games in hand. The Lightning had a very slow start and have struggled with inconsistent goaltending that had them at one point last in the Eastern Conference. As much as every game means for the Jets until the end of the season the same could be said for Tampa Bay too. With the league leader in goals Steven Stamkos on the team they are not a club to be taken lightly.

Tampa will be without blueliner Marc-Andre Bergeron and forward Ryan Malone tonight when they welcome the Jets to town. Dwayne Roloson entered the season the undisputed number one but his poor play and the stronger play of Matthieu Garon has him relegated to back up duty and Garon will get his third consecutive start against the Jets.

Jets

Winnipeg has some good news on the injury front as it looks like Dustin Byfuglien and Alexander Burmistrov will be back in the lineup tonight and should provide a nice boost to the clubs scoring chances, or at the very least shots on net. The Jets have been without big Buff for 16 games and have gone 7-8-1 over that stretch. With him in the lineup the Jets are 16-14-5; But if you get rid of the first month and a half when he was playing awful they were 11-5-2 from mid-November up to his injury when he was finally playing solid hockey. There is no doubt Byfuglien can be a game changer and we are all hopeful the December Buff returns from injury not the October Buff.

Chris Thorburn finally had his first goal as a Winnipeg Jet on Tuesday, leaving only Ron Hainsey (27 gp) and Antti Miettien (18 gp) as the last two regular players (several call ups have yet to score) with out a goal this season. Tonights game is the first of a back to back in the sunshine state as they’ll head to Florida and try to win their first back to back game this year. Maybe just maybe Thorburn started a road trip of firsts for the Jets?

Keys to Victory

Win in regulation. The Jets gutted out a win in Philadelphia and while it wasn’t the type of shoot out I thought it would be it ended up going to the shoot out and with it the two points for the Jets but a single point to an Eastern Conference team yet again. While playing against a division rival the Jets can ill afford to lost this game or give up a single point. They have to play with urgency and win in regulation.

Get Buff going. He’ll likely be in the lineup and they want to get him feeling good so he plays like he did before he got hurt and not the costly way he played to start the season. When on his game he can jump-start the offensive for the Jets and we need to see that Buff not the one that made bad pinches and dogged it back into his end after being beat.

Shut down Steven. This will most likely fall on the GST line but whoever is out there when Stamkos is on the ice has to stay between him and the net and limit his chances. Stamkos was a -9 in January so he’s vulnerable defensively if you can shut him down offensively you’ll win the game.

Get the lead and avoid the 1=3=1. Always a goal when playing against Tampa is to get a lead and make them come after you, because if you get behind you could be in for a frustrating night.

Injuries

Dustin Byfuglien (knee) probable
Tim Stapleton (lower body) out
Evander Kane (concussion) out
Alexander Burmistrov (concussion) probable

Starting Goalies

Jets – Ondrej Pavelec (17-17-6, 2.78, .911) [Confirmed] @9:57am
Lightning – Matthieu Garon (15-13-2, 2.91, .902) [Confirmed]

Prediction

Despite Steven Stamkos the Tampa Bay Lightning will drop this game giving the Jets a two game streak on the road. One thing that I can’t explain is that the Jets have been streak busters and in a gritty and possible overtime game the Jets will eek out the W and end Tampa’s win streak. Giving up a point if it does go to the extra frame could turn out to be costly come the end of the season.

Winnipeg Jets 3 – Tampa Bay Lightning 2

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of winnipegwhiteout.com and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.