JETBLAST: WINNIPEG @ TAMPA BAY

JETBLAST

Winnipeg Jets (33-23-12) at Tampa Bay Lightning (40-20-7) 6:00 p.m., Amalie Arena,
TV: Sportsnet Radio: TSN 1290
The Winnipeg Jets finish off a 4 game road trip tonight when they visit the one of the leader in the Atlantic division, and the league, the Tamp Bay Lightning. All games this time of year are important, and when you put them on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada, they seem that much bigger. The Jets find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in after losing two straight games. The Lightning on the other hand are one of five teams at 91 points tied for the NHL lead. The Lightning won the teams only match up this season, winning 4-2 at the MTS Centre on October 24th, the game saw Lightning rookie, Jonathan Drouin score his first NHL goal. There are sure to be many but the rookie in his long career, the Jets hope not many more come tonight. Jets and Lightning, 6pm, Hockey Night in Canada, Lets Go!

Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the most successful teams in the NHL this season. Still sitting as very real Presidents Trophy contenders, the Lightning will be a top spot in the playoffs and pose a threat to go all the way. They have this success in large part due to their offensive power. The Lightning have 3 players with more points than any Jet, and 4 over 50 points. The most notable of course is Steven Stamkos. Though Stamkos currently sits second in point on the team, he has 37 goals, good enough for third in the NHL. There are not many players in the league who have as much pure offensive skill as Stamkos and with the additions GM Steve Yzerman has made over the last 2 or 3 years, Stamkos has been surrounded by other talented players. The biggest addition to this team came from within, with the maturity of Tyler Johnson. Everyone knew he was skilled when he was drafted but no one expected he’d grow into the player he is now. He leads the Bolts with 65 points and is a very impressive +/- 32. The Lightning win with their offense, so if they can get going, there is a chance to steam roll the Jets tonight.

Jets

The Jets find themselves in a position they have not been in since mid November. They had One hundred and fourteen straight days sitting in a playoff spot, they now find themselves on the outside looking in, one point behind the LA Kings for the final Wildcard spot, and one less game remaining. The Jets have put themselves in a terrible position, but with games remaining against many of the teams above them they still have a chance, and it is all in their own hands. Things become even more complicated for this team however as Tyler Myers left Thursdays game with an upper body injury and did not return. His status for Saturday is uncertain but with the Jets calling up Keaton Ellerby I would expect Myers is not in the lineup. He joins Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little, and Mathieu Perreault in the Jets press box, as it seems the Jets top guys just continue to get bit by the injury bug at the biggest time of the season. The Jets do appear to have Matt Halischuk back. Though he does not really fill the role of any of the guys who are missing, Halischuk does provide you with a great defensive forward who brings some offensive threat to the table.

Keys to the Game

Ondrej the Giant: After Michael Hutchinson started the last 8 games, Ondrej Pavelec will finally get back into the net. A big problem for the Jets since the all star break has been their goaltending. Neither tender has given the team what they need and it has shown in the standing and the stats pages. Pavelec, who had been pretty much relegated to the back up spot, now has his chance to retake his top spot. The Jets need this win and Pavelec needs this performance.

Slow the Game Down: The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the most offensivly skilled teams in the league, they playa fast up and down style and like to play the game like a track meet. Averaging nearly 3 and quarter goals per game the Lightning have the ability to just bury you. Winnipeg needs to keep this game tight checking, slow, and most importantly, low scoring. If the Jets can keep this game to 2-1 or 3-2 they have a chance to be on the good end, if not they will not be winning this game.

Scoreboard Watching: Calgary got another win last night, now 3 points ahead of the Jets, Minnesota is ahead by the same margin, both teams with the same amount of game remaining, La is one point up and fins themselves in Nashville tonight while the San Jose Sharks who are a point behind the Jets play tonight in Chicago. It could be another night of movement at the bottom of the Western Conference so keep your eyes on the out of town scoreboard.

Starting Goalies

Ondrej Pavelec (13-14-7) GAA: 2.56 SV% .910
Ben Bishop (33-11-4) GAA: 2.32 SV% .915

Injuries

Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Myers, WPG, (UBI) unknown
Perreault, WPG, (LBI) out
Byfuglien, WPG, (UBI) out
Little, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Chiarot, WPG, (Broken Hand) out

Coburn, TBL, (LBI) out
Paquette, TBL, (UBI) day-to-day
Carle, TBL, (Abdominal) out
Ohlund, TBL, (Knee) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 4-4-2
Lightning: 7-2-1

Prediction
Three straight losses all but bury the Jets.
Lightning 5 Jets 2

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Diehard Winnipeg sports fan. Agree or disagree with something I wrote? Find me on twitter @seantheoilcan and let me know Go Jets Go!

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