The Jets are reeling after consecutive road losses to the St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers. Consecutive road losses have left the Jets out of playoff position for the first time in months, and with a difficult schedule from here on out. Tonight the Jets continue their road trip as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa, looking to end the road trip with another win.
The Lightning are, of course, one of the best teams in the National Hockey League. They're currently tied for first in the East with 91 points, while the Jets sit 1 point back of the West's final playoff spot with 78 points. In a possible stroke of good fortune for the Jets, it looks like the Lightning will be starting Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal tonight, while the Jets will counter with Ondrej Pavelec.
On the injury front, the Jets will once again be without the services of both Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien. Furthermore, Tyler Myers was not on the ice for today's morning skate and is expected to miss tonight's contest.
Keys to the Game
Goaltending. Since a hot first month or two of the season, the Winnipeg Jets have consistently gotten below-average goaltending from both Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. As always, this team requires solid goaltending in order to remain competitive. Not amazing goaltending, just solid. If the Jets get solid goaltending tonight, they'll have a good chance to come away with a win.
Stepping up. With both Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers out of the lineup, youngsters Jacob Trouba and Paul Postma will be called upon to step into bigger roles on defense. Up front, Adam Lowry has moved into the top six in Bryan Little's absence, but the Jets clearly miss his playmaking and defensive ability. The Jets have done an alright job of putting pucks in the net despite the injuries, but they'll need to continue and also get big contributions on the defensive end against one of the league's best offensive teams.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Shoot, shoot, shoot. Usually one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, the Lightning are in the midst of a mini-slump offensively. But with Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ryan Callahan, Ondrej Palat and more up front, the Lightning can (and probably will) be dangerous. The Jets' goaltenders haven't been particularly good, and with enough shots on goal the Lightning might be able to open the floodgates.
Make 'em pay. The Jets have been a lot better on the penalty front lately, but are still far and away the league's leaders when it comes to playing shorthanded. With a 22.4% power play success rate at home, if the Lightning can get opportunities on the power play, they'll put themselves in a good position to win.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Probably Andrei Vasilevskiy, because a bad performance in goal will almost certainly ensure a Jets win.
Jets win. Call me crazy, but I predict Ondrej Pavelec comes up big for the Jets and Jacob Trouba shows how good he can be playing away from Mark Stuart.