Dec 7, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little (18) defends Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Road-Tested Tampa Bay Lightning Face Winnipeg Jets: Preview

The Winnipeg Jets (18-21-5) are still searching for their first win of the new year, and they look to earn it at home when the Tampa Bay Lightning (25-13-4) try to avenge a loss from the West’s worst team.

The Jets started 2014 on a three-game road trip in the Eastern Conference, and came out win-less, despite a high-scoring 6-5 final in Pittsburgh. The Lightning, who also started the year on the road, won in Vancouver and Calgary, before losing to the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 on Sunday. The Lightning and Jets met on December 7th, where Winnipeg stunned Tampa Bay in overtime, taking a rare road win out of the Times Forum. This will be the final meeting of the season between the two teams.

Ondrej Pavelec will be back in the net for the Jets, after swapping games with Al Montoya on the road-trip. Pavelec, (who was named to the Czech Olympic team on Monday), has put up a .901% save percentage and a 3.06 GAA in 33 games this season. Pavelec played his last game in Boston, where he stopped 25 of 29 in a 4-1 loss. Pavelec will likely face Tampa back-up Anders Lindback, who has a .883% save percentage and a 3.21 GAA in 13 appearances this season. Lindback’s last win came on December 19th, when he played his former team, the Nashville Predators.

The Lightning are still without sniper Steven Stamkos, who is in the midst of a miracle recovery from a broken leg. Not only is the team’s top scorer on the shelf, but joining him is Ben Bishop, the Lightning’s #1 goaltender. Bishop went down in Tampa’s loss to the Oilers on Sunday with an injured blocker hand, and is listed as ‘day-to-day’. Also missing from the Lightning roster are Keith Aulie (broken hand), and Brian Lee (knee), who are both on Injured Reserve with Stamkos.

The Jets will still be without the services of Jim Slater (hernia), Paul Postma (blood clot), Matt Halischuk (broken arm), and Grant Clitsome (back), who are all on the IR. None are close to return, as outlined in Monday’s injury update.

The Jets haven’t been able to get both of their top two lines consistently producing, something they will search for against a banged-up defensive team. Evander Kane had two goals in the Jets’ loss to Pittsburgh, but Blake Wheeler‘s first line has been carrying much of the load offensively for the last 5-10 games. Meanwhile, both Devin Setoguchi and Bryan Little have dried up, with only 3 combined goals in their last 17 games.

Tuesday will be a meeting between four future members of the Czech Republic Olympic team: Pavelec and Michael Frolik of the Jets, and Ondrej Palat and Radko Gudas of the Bolts. All four were designated to the Czech squad on Monday morning, when the country released its 25-man roster.

The Jets are winners of their last three games at home, and have a 10-8-4 record at the MTS Centre this season. The Lightning are 11-9-2 on the road this season, and have the best record against the West of any Eastern Conference team, at 10-4-2. The Lightning’s only loss against a Central Division team came against the Jets, and they are yet to lose in regulation against a team from the division (5-0-1). The Jets are well above .500% against the East, at 11-7-1.


You can watch the game on TSN Jets, or listen live on TSN 1290 radio. Non-regional viewers can see the game on SUN Sports. Game time is 7:00 PM Central Time.


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Tags: Tampa Bay Lightning Winnipeg Jets

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