The Winnipeg Jets continue to Jekyll and Hyde their way through the 2013-14 NHL season and tonight make the final stop on their six game road trip in which they will visit the Steven Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning.
Thus far, the Jets have earned six of a possible ten points on their eastern swing, but disappointing losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and -- most recently -- the Florida Panthers have stuck out above the rest in the eyes of their fan base. However, should Winnipeg return home with a 4-2-0 record, an achievable feat with a win tonight, then there will at least be some cause for optimism going forward.
For their part, the Tampa Bay Lightning are 4-5-1 in their last ten games without Stamkos, struggling to find consistency without their leading scorer. They currently sit fourth in the NHL's Atlantic Division and sport an NHL best 11-3-0 record on home ice (Ed. Note: We are excluding Boston as the best home team as they have played more games and have a lower winning percentage than Tampa Bay). Winnipeg will have their hands full tonight in yet another absolute must win should they have any inkling of hope in re-emerging in the Central Division playoff race.
Keys to the Game:
Move your feet: Too many times the Jets were stagnant in their zone entries Thursday night and it concluded with a lot of dumping and no chasing. If this team continues to defy logic by using this offensive tact, it would behoove them to actually see the entire zone entry through.
Take advantage of opportunity: Too many times the power play looks as blasé as Winnipeg's zone entries. When they effectively move the puck around, success usually follows. They'll need tons of puck movement tonight.
Wake up, Wheeler: Yeah your fancy stats are nice, but you make $5.6MM and aren't putting the puck in the net. Time to start finding a way to do that, bro.
Tampa Bay Lightning
You're killing me: Owners of one of the NHL's best penalty kill units, the Lightning shouldn't have much of a problem keeping the Jets off the scoreboard tonight, but it will be imperative that they do as scoring has come at a premium to both these teams.
Hedman the henchman: Victor Hedman has quietly had himself a rather impressive year offensively and will also be put to the task of keeping Winnipeg's top line off the scoreboard tonight. If he is able to keep the Jets' best players silent, I like Tampa Bay's odds in winning this game.
Score early: When leading after the first period, the Lightning go on to win .917% of their games, which is sixth best in the league. So if Martin St.Louis can generate some goals out of the gate, Tampa Bay will be in a prime position to earn yet another win at home.
Player to boo mercilessly:
Ryan Malone because he has a face you love to boo.
Tampa Bay 3 - F