Game 29 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Winnipeg Jets

The Tampa Bay Lightning (17-10-1, 35 PTS), will take to home ice to face a former division rival tonight in the Winnipeg Jets (13-13-4, 30 PTS), formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers. The Bolts finally righted the ship after a few anemic offensive performances in a row including a pair of shutouts against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, following up with a quality 3-1 home win over the division-opponent Ottawa Senators.

While there is still cause for concern with the Lightning offense and the bevy of injuries that have struck the entire organization from top to bottom, the Bolts do look to get both Eric Brewer and Radko Gudas back tonight, and not a moment too soon with both Keith Aulie and Victor Hedman exiting permanently in the 3-1 win over the Sens.

The ever-evolving lineup — typically consisting of the 18 guys healthy enough to put a sweater on and skate out onto the ice — will deal with a Jets squad that’s been fighting hard to stay relevant in a crowded Western Conference and has found themselves perhaps a rung or two below the league’s elites. The Jets are 19th in the league in Fenclose % (48.7%) which is only two spots below the Lightning (49.5%), but the only Western Conference teams lower than Winnipeg are the Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers. Their 98.6 PDO is 8th lowest in the league, a disadvantage built mostly on their ridiculously low 5v5 score close shooting percentage (6.6%, 7th worst in the league), a problem exacerbated by some of their top players like Blake Wheeler who are having uncharacteristically down years.

Meanwhile, the Jets have been finding their long-overdue move to the Western Conference perhaps a regrettable one. One of the season’s most pervasive narratives has been the West’s domination over the East, and moving from the oft-malinged “SouthLEAST” division to the new Central Division (also known as Conference III) has been one marked with tough competition and a struggle to stay competitive with the juggernauts they now regularly face, including consistently good possession teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, a resurgent Minnesota Wild club, and the upstart Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, who all look like legitimate playoff contenders or bubble teams at worst.

So where does that leave the Jets?

Mostly, treading water at about .500 both in Winnipeg (7-6-3) and away from the Great White North (6-7-1). Their most recent loss was a disappointing 5-2 result against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, but their status in the standings gives further credence to the “West is best” crowd: their 30 points, currently good for 11th in the West, would be tied for 8th in the East with the Carolina Hurricanes (who currently hold a playoff spot in the laughable Metropolitan Division) and the New York Rangers (who are three points behind the faltering Toronto Maple Leafs for the East’s last Wild Card spot). Their record against Eastern Conference opponents (7-3-1) also speaks to that point, even including the recent loss to the Panthers, and their record against their own division (3-9-2) pretty much tells the story of their season so far.

 

NOTES


Season Series


TIED 0-0
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Rosters


LIGHTNING JETS
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STATPACK

 

Team

TOI, POSSESSION & SCORING TOTALS
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POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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Special Teams

POWER PLAY
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PENALTY KILL
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Goaltending

ON-ICE TOTALS
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ON-ICE RATES
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ON-ICE PERCENTAGES
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Scoring

LIGHTNING
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JETS
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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