The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their current five-game home stand on Tuesday when they host the Winnipeg Jets in the first of two matchups between the teams this season.
The Lightning have earned at least a point in six of their past seven games (4-1-2, 10 points), including their past three contests (four points). In the process, they look to be playing their way out of their previous 10-game stretch that saw them post just two wins.
It’s the sort of play they will need from their roster, as injuries continue to mount for the club as they approach the midway point of the 2016-17 regular season. Brian Boyle is doubtful for Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury, while Cedric Paquette (lower-body), Brayden Point (upper-body) and Steven Stamkos (right knee) continue to be out of the lineup. Lightning forward Adam Erne is expected to make his NHL debut, while Vladislav Namestnikov is set to return to the lineup.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is also expected to get the call between the pipes for the club for the sixth straight game since starting goaltender Ben Bishop went down with an injury on Dec. 20.
The Jets come to Tampa on the front end of back-to-back games (they play the Florida Panthers on Wednesday) as part of a brief three-game road trip. They have dropped their past two contests and were outscored 11-5 in that span, including a 6-2 loss against the New York Islanders on New Year’s Eve — the last time they played a game.
The Jets boast rookie Patrik Laine — the second overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft — who has tallied 19 goals this season, including 10 points on the power play. His speed and creativity with the puck are dangerous at five players a side, but take on a whole new level when his team has the man advantage and he has open ice.
While the Jets’ record is below .500, it’s not indicative of the dangerous team they can be on the offensive side of the puck. They are one of just seven NHL teams with at least four players (Laine, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers) who have 10 or more goals this season (the Lightning have five).
Let’s take a closer look at Wednesday’s contest between these teams.
Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning
Amalie Arena – 7:30 p.m. EST
Broadcast Channels – Fox Sports Sun, TSN3
2016-17 Season Series: First Matchup
Winnipeg Jets – 17-19-3 – 37 Points
Road Record: 7-11-2
Hot Players: Jacob Trouba
Key Injuries: Marko Dano (lower-body), Tyler Myers (lower-body)
Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Shawn Matthias – Adam Lowry – Joel Armia
Andrew Copp – Nic Petan – Drew Stafford
Josh Morrissey – Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom – Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot – Paul Postma
*These line combinations are subject to change.
Tampa Bay Lightning – 19-15-4 – 42 Points
Home Record: 11-5-2
Hot Players: Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Vasilevskiy
Key Injuries: Ben Bishop (lower-body), Cedric Paquette (lower-body), Brayden Point (upper-body), Steven Stamkos (right knee)
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov
Ryan Callahan – Valtteri Filppula – Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn – Vladislav Namestnikov – Adam Erne
Michael Bournival – Matthew Peca – J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Slater Koekkoek – Braydon Coburn
**These line combinations are subject to change. Ryan Callahan is “probable” for the matchup on Tuesday.
1) Since returning to the Lightning lineup on Dec. 28, Ondrej Palat is on a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists) and is a combined plus-one. He’s been reunited with Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson on the Triplets Line and looks to be working his way out of the struggles he’s experienced on the score sheet during the early part of the season.
2) The Jets are lead by their top line, made up of Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and rookie Patrik Laine. The three players have combined for 95 points and Scheifele paces the team with 33 points, while Laine’s 19 goals lead the Jets and are second among all rookies.
3) The Lightning converted on two of three power plays in their 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. They enter Tuesday’s contest with the league’s third best power play, with a 23.5-percent success rate. The Jets are 18th with the man-advantage, but are just 27th in the NHL on the penalty kill (76.1-percent). Power play opportunities have the potential to be a deciding factor in this game.
4) The Lightning are nearing the end of a season long five-game home stand and are 2-0-1 after three contests. After they face the Jets on Tuesday and Nashville Predators on Thursday, they will embark upon a six-game road trip which makes earning points at home all the more important at this point in the season.
5) Tampa Bay Lightning forward Adam Erne is expected to make his NHL debut on Wednesday. The 21-year-old winger was selected 33rd overall by the Lightning in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He’s compiled eight goals and 10 assists in 31 games with the Syracuse Crunch this season in the American Hockey League. The Jets’ Tyler Myers skated during the team’s morning skate, but will not return to the lineup on Tuesday. He’s missed the past 23 games with a lower-body injury.
Vasilevskiy has been increasingly better for the Lightning over the past five starts and seems to be growing more comfortable as the team’s clear-cut No. 1 goaltender in the absence of Bishop. He will be up against some of the league’s top offensive players with the likes of Scheifele, Ehlers, Laine and Wheeler, and will need another strong game in goal for the Lightning.
The Jets are currently sixth in the Central Division but are just three points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild card position in the Western Conference — making this matchup between the Jets and the Lightning all the more important for both teams as they approach the midway point of the season.
Look for what should be a fast-paced game, as both teams are well-rested and poised to make a push to be in a playoff position before the NHL’s All-Star Break on Jan. 27.