When: Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m. CST
Where: MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Records: Winnipeg Jets (21-19-2 – 9th in East), Tampa Bay Lightning (17-22-3- 13th in East)
Television/Radio: FS-F, TSN-JETS/TSN 1290
The Story: A four-day break has come and gone for the Winnipeg Jets which means it’s back to work tonight for the fourth game of the team’s current six-game home stand against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Jets have been idle since last Thursday night’s 7-2 shellacking of the last-place Florida Panthers, which for most players has meant rest, optional practices, days off, and well, more rest.
With just six games to go in the season, the Jets have 44 points and trail the New York Rangers by two points for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have a game in hand on the Jets while the New York Islanders, who sit in 7th place, lead the Jets by three points with the same number of games played.
Since last Thursday, the Southeast-division leading Washington Capitals have padded their lead to four points over the Jets and have all but locked up the 3rd seed in the East with a timely seven game winning streak.
With two weeks to go in the 2013 regular season, all the Jets can do now is win their own games and hope that one of the two teams ahead of them,- the Rangers or the Islanders- loses consecutive games thus allowing them to climb above the highly coveted playoff line again. Because that projected playoff line is expected to be 52-53 points, it is quite possible that the Jets may have to win five of their last six games in order to have a shot at making the postseason.
The good news for the Jets is that their next two opponents are two of the worst defensive teams in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning, tonight’s opponent, have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net and have surrendered 131 goals in 42 games (3.07 goals against/game), 4th worst in the entire National Hockey League.
Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman traded rookie forward Cory Conacher to the Ottawa Senators before the NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for Ben Bishop, a move that was made to improve the team’s goaltending situation. In six games with Tampa, Bishop is 2-3-0 with a 3.21 Goals Against Average and .921 save percentage.
As far as the offensive side of the game goes for Tampa Bay, well that is a completely different story.
The Lightning have scored 132 goals this season (or 3.14 goals/game) which is 3rd most in the NHL. The only teams that have scored more than the Lighting are the Pittsburgh Penguins (138 goals for) and Toronto Maple Leafs (133 goals for). It is is safe to say that if the Jets can shut down one or both of Steven Stamkos (26 goals, 26 assists) and Martin St.Louis (11 goals, 41 assists) then they will have a pretty good chance of winning tonight’s hockey game.
Jets fans shouldn’t expect Tobias Enstrom to be in the line-up tonight versus Tampa Bay. On Monday, Jets Head Coach Claude Noel announced that Enstrom is now listed as week-to-week with a mid-body injury. Enstrom left last Tuesday’s game against Buffalo after being hit hard by Steve Ott. Paul Postma is expected to play his second game in a row for the Jets tonight in place of Enstrom.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Lightning and Jets with the Jets leading the season series two games to one. The Lightning defeated the Jets 8-3 on February 1st in Tampa Bay during the first game of the season between the two teams, but Winnipeg has won the last two meetings, a 2-1 win in Tampa Bay on March 7th and a 3-2 win in Winnipeg on March 24th.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in net for the Jets tonight.
Ben Bishop is expected to start in net for the Lightning tonight.
Follow @IllegalCurve on Twitter leading up to today’s game.
Projected Jets line combinations (subject to change before game time):
1st: Andrew Ladd- Bryan Little- Blake Wheeler
2nd: Evander Kane-Olli Jokinen- Kyle Wellwood
3rd: Eric Tangradi– Alexander Burmistrov- Mike Santorelli
4th: James Wright- Aaron Gagnon – Chris Thorburn
Grant Clitsome – Dustin Byfuglien
Zach Bogosian- Ron Hainsey
Paul Postma- Mark Stuart
Tampa Bay Lightning: Martin St.Louis (11 goals, 41 assists, 52 points), Steven Stamkos (26 goals, 26 assists, 52 points), Teddy Purcell (11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points)
Winnipeg Jets: Andrew Ladd (16 goals, 22 assists, 38 points), Blake Wheeler (15 goals, 17 assists, 32 points) Evander Kane (16 goals, 15 assists, 31 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning: Tom Pyatt (upper body), Nate Thompson (face), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (upper body), Anders Lindback (ankle), Paul Ranger (concussion)
Winnipeg Jets: Zach Redmond (leg), Anthony Peluso (hand), Jim Slater (upper body), Nikolai Antropov (lower body), Tobias Enstrom (mid-body, week to week)
Who’s Next: The Jets host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, April 18th at 7:00 p.m. CST followed by a home game against the New York Islanders on Saturday, April 20th at 2:00 p.m. CST.
QUICKIES….. Mark Stuart leads all Jets defensemen with 88 hits…… Grant Clitsome is ranked 2nd amongst Jets defenseman with 76 hits…..Keith Aulie leads all Tampa Bay defensemen with 81 hits…..On Monday, the Jets signed 2011 3rd Round Draft Pick Adam Lowry to a three-year contract. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed…..