The two Southeast Division clubs meet for the third of six total meetings on the year. So far in 2011-12, the teams have split the first two matchups, with the most recent coming in a 5-2 Jets win on Nov. 14 that snapped Tampa Bay’s then-active NHL record 12-game win streak over the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise.
After coming out of the All-Star Break nine points out of the final playoff spot in the East, Tampa Bay inched one point closer to cut the deficit to eight by winning its fifth game in a row on Tuesday to collect its 48th point on the season. Winnipeg, meanwhile, enters Thursday’s contest just four points ahead of the Bolts and one position above the Lightning in the conference standings. The Jets have lost three of the past four overall, however, and 11 of the past 12 meetings to Tampa Bay. They’ll be looking for a win come Thursday to keep pace ahead of the Lightning in the playoff hunt.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in its second game of its current four-game home stand, which features three of those contests against opponents within its own division. No matter whether the team plays at home or on the road, the wins just keep on coming for the Lightning. That theme continued Tuesday night as the Bolts surrendered a two-goal deficit, but still managed to prevail in overtime, defeating the Washington Capitals 4-3 to win a fifth consecutive game. Teddy Purcell, Martin St. Louis and Nate Thompson scored in regulation for the Lightning before St. Louis helped set up Steven Stamkos’ game-winning goal just 2:45 into the extra period. The victory was helped along by the return of several key players to the lineup, including Victor Hedman, Tom Pyatt, JT Wyman and Ryan Shannon, who had each previously missed time due to injury.
JETS – Winnipeg pays a visit to Tampa Bay to compete in its fourth consecutive road game. The Jets are in the midst of a six-game road trip that began before the All-Star Break and picked up where it left off on Tuesday night in the team’s first win since Jan. 19. After the Flyers’ Brayden Schenn opened the scoring in the first period, Philadelphia surrendered a 1-0 lead that drew Winnipeg even, courtesy of Chris Thorburn, and allowed it to ride the tied contest all the way into overtime. Bryan Little netted the game-winner in the shootout after goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stopped each of the first two opposing shooters in the shootout after stopping 25 of 26 shots in regulation.
For the Lightning, Martin St. Louis is riding a seven-game point streak with 12 points in that span. St. Louis has also produced a multi-point performance in each of his past four consecutive games. Vincent Lecavalier has also recorded points in all but two games since the calendar flipped to 2012, while Steven Stamkos has a total of two goals and three points in his past three outings. Winnipeg’s Nik Antropov has collected a point in five of his past six games with three goals and four assists over that stretch.
LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Dana Tyrell (ACL, out for season, placed on Injured Reserve), Adam Hall (forearm, placed on Injured Reserve), Marc-Andre Bergeron (upper body, day-to-day) and Ryan Malone (upper body, day-to-day).
JETS – Dustin Byfuglien (knee) and Evander Kane (concussion).
“I think maybe down the road we'll care, but we just want to win games right now and we'll take them anyway we can get them. We have some other teams to catch as well so we are going to take every point that we can get.” – Steven Stamkos, on the mindset of his team as it chases a playoff spot
Connections: Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina spent one season with the present-day Jets while the franchise was located in Atlanta during the 2009-10 season. Current Jets defenseman Randy Jones appeared in a Lightning uniform last season, skating in 61 regular season games with the Bolts and an additional five postseason contests before signing with Winnipeg as a free agent. The Jets currently have forward Antti Miettinen as well, with who the Lightning agreed to terms before he was plucked off waivers by Winnipeg in early December.
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