With the Winnipeg Jets, you just never know which team is going to show up.
Will it be the squad that had just recently won 4 of 5 on their previous road trip and looked confident in their abilities? Will it be the team that had won 5 of 6 to get themselves back into the playoff mix only last week? Or will it be the team that has only scored once in the past two games in completely embarrassing and demoralizing fashion? Well, as the Queens of the Stone Age once so eloquently put it, "No One Knows", least of all their coach.
The Jets head into the unfriendly confines of the Tampa Bay Times Forum this evening, which is where the biggest beat-down of the season occurred when the Lightning absolutely drubbed them 8-3 a few weeks ago. Though Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and company have struggled of late (4-6 in their last ten), they still lead the league in goals per game at 3.52 and will be once again looking to beat up on a divisional rival who they are tied with in the standings.
The Jets are 5-5 in their last ten, but have lost two straight in depressing fashion and will be looking for some signs of life from anybody. They currently sport a record 10-11-1, which is good for 21 points and a tie for 11th in the Eastern Conference. However, they are closer to 15th in the East (two points ahead of the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals) than they are to the 8th and final playoff spot (three points behind the New York Rangers).
The Jets have only scored one goal in their past two games, as Kyle Wellwood emerged from the press-box to tally that marker. Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and co. will need to step up and provide some offense if they are to have a chance in this one.
Needless to say, tonight is another in a long list of big games for the Jets. Hopefully they remember to show up for this one, or else they could find themselves in the basement of the conference in in the mix for Seth Jones once again.
Keys to the Game:
- Show some effort/hustle/heart - The last two games were abysmal performances. Whether the players weren't ready to play or the coaches didn't have them adequately prepared, the fact remains that they were unable to even compete with a team filled with AHL players in Florida the other night. Some effort would be nice.
- Play solid team defense - As noted above, the Lightning lead the league in goals per game, and torched the Jets for 8 in their previous meeting. The team will have to play extra solid defense if they don't want to get embarrassed again.
- Test their Goalie - Anders Lindback, acquired this past summer from the Predators and expected to be the #1 in T-Bay, has struggled this season and had been riding the pine for about a week while Mathieu Garon had taken over the starting duties. But with Garon out with an lower-body injury, the Jets will need to take advantage of the shaky Lindback by firing pucks at him from all angles.
- Take over the game early - The Jets have not looked confident in their past two games, and if Tampa gets on the board early it could be a long night for the visitors. The firepower on this Lightning squad could have a field-day with this Jets team if it gets going the wrong way.
- Take advantage of playing at home - The Lightning are much better at home (6-4-1) than they are on the road (4-8-0), and the 45 goals they've scored at home in those 11 games (4.09 per game) leads the league.
- Get on the power-play - The Jets still have the worst PK in the league at 73.5%, and the Lightning are tied for first in the league with 14 PP goals at home. This is a recipe for a disaster, unless you have Stamkos in your hockey pool.
Player to Boo Mercilessly:
Tampa Bay 7 - F