The Winnipeg Jets roll into Tampa Bay on Thursday to take on their long time bitter rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning, in a battle of Southeast division teams trying to claw their way into playoff spots, with Winnipeg sitting in 5 points out in 10th spot, with Tampa 7 points out in 11th.
The fortunes of these 2 squads have been opposite of late, as the Bolts have won 6 straight, whereas the Jets had lost 3 in a row before knocking off the Flyers in shootout on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is coming off a 4-3 OT win against another division rival, the Capitals, on Tuesday, keeping Washington and the division title THAT MUCH closer to the grasp of the 3 teams chasing them. Because let's be honest...Carolina isn't going to catch them.
The Jets will see a boost in their lineup, and likely morale as well, as Big Bad Buff returns to the ice. Dustin Byfuglien and Alexander Burmistrov should both be back from injury as Buff returns after 16 games missed due to a knee injury, while Burmi has passed concussion tests after being slammed into the boards on the 24th.
Now while people may be excited about the return of Buff, and how he's going to lead us to the
promised land playoffs and boost our struggling offense, I am excited about something else all together...
Boogie with Stu!
That's right, if the prophets are correct in their observations, the defense pairings would see Buff and Toby together, while Zach Bogosian and Mark Stuart would form the second pairing. Which would make my flippin' day.
UPDATE: guess my day won't be made, as the bottom two d pairings will be hainsey with Bogo, and Stuart with Oduya....curses.
The Jets are playing their first of two back to back games in sunny Florida tonight, with the next being in Sunrise tomorrow against the lousy, yella, no good keesters...the Florida Panthers. And knowing that the Jets are awful in the second half of back to back games, it would be best if they managed to get something out of this one, as Buff will no doubt get gassed, what with his poor physique and what not. At least that's what Gary Lawless would think. And he must know his stuff: he gets paid to write.
Keys to the Game, Player Numbers and Lineups coming your way after THE JUMP
Keys to the Game:
- Bring the rain. The Tampa Lightning have a weakness. It's called goaltending. With the heavy shots of Bogo and Buff on point, this should open up a few chances once more for the Jets, as shooting lanes will open as the Lightning try to contest the shots from the point
- Make hay where the sun shines. It would be great to get something out of the road trip to Florida. 3 or more points would be spiffy, and if that's gonna happen something needs to be done tonight.
- Shut down the big names. Steven Stamkos might fake a high stick every now and then, but he also has 33 goals going into this contest. It would be spiffy if that number stayed that way tonight. Lecavalier and St. Louis are also guys with big numbers that the Jets need to be fully aware of.
- I'm as happy as anybody that Thor scored on Tuesday, and it's always nice when depth guys pitch in, but holy crap do the top lines need to start producing again. Shootout goals are nice and all, but can we finish the chances we have in regulation? It'd make me feel better. I miss my fingernails.
- Goaltending. The numbers suggest that the Jets have the advantage, and if Pavelec gets the nod and plays like he did on Tuesday I would have to agree. But stranger things have happened in this world, and sometimes old coots like Roloson pull a game out of their butts that makes announcers say cliched lines like "playing like he's in his prime" and other jazz like that.
- Dustin Byfuglien. Buff has only practiced a few times since injuring his knee, so the stamina might not be there. If this is the case, he might get second line minutes, or we'll see Bogo switch with him on the top d pairing.
- Stay out of the box. I know this is getting repetitive, but penalties kill. They are an extremely preventable way of tossing away points, especially when they're somehow becoming more valuable as the season progresses. I mean...I don't know why points in April are worth more than the ones in October. If you win more in October, you don't have to worry as much in April. It's just common sense.
Jets (GP 51 23-22-6 52 PTS)
#16 Andrew Ladd -- #18 Bryan Little -- #26 Blake Wheeler
#17 Eric Fehr -- #80 Nik Antropov -- #13 Kyle Wellwood
#15 Tanner Glass -- #19 Jim Slater -- #22 Chris Thorburn
#20 Antti Miettinen -- #21 Aaron Gagnon -- #8 Alexander Burmistrov
#39 Tobias Enstrom -- #33 Dustin Byfuglien
#6 Ron Hainsey -- #4 Zach Bogosian
#29 Johnny Oduya -- #5 Mark Stuart
#31 Ondrej Pavelec
Back to back games means that Stone Mason should get the start on Friday in Sunrise. Or tonight.
Electrostatic Discharges (GP 49 22-23-4 48 PTS)
#11 Tom Pyatt -- #4 Vincent Lecavalier -- #26 Martin St. Louis
#16 Teddy Purcell -- #91 Steven Stamkos -- #9 Steve Downie
#34 J.T. Wyman -- #19 Dominic Moore -- #44 Nate Thompson
#22 Ryan Shannon -- #14 Brett Connolly -- #76 Pierre-Cedric Labrie
#13 Pavel Kubina -- #2 Eric Brewer
#77 Victor Hedman -- #7 Brett Clark
#97 Matt Gilroy -- #27 Bruno Gervais
#32 Mathieu Garon
Could be Mathieu Garon in net. Won't know until after this hits the presses.
UPDATE: It will be Garon in net.
Player to boo mercilessly: Steven Stamkos. You know why
Prediction: Winnipeg 3-1 Tampa Bay. We may as well win. It'd be fun