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Posted On Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 2:40 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lightning look to future with Bishop under contract

WINNIPEG -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have only the slimmest of chances to still reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, but they have secured a key part of their future.

Goaltender Ben Bishop signed a two-year contract extension Monday after the Lightning arrived here for their game Tuesday evening with the Winnipeg Jets. The Lightning acquired Bishop from the Ottawa Senators on April 3 at the NHL Trade Deadline for speedy forward Cory Conacher.

The 26-year-old has gone 2-3-0 in six games with Tampa Bay and posted a .916 save percentage to go with his 3.21 goals-against average. Bishop earned a 45-save shutout in his Tampa Bay debut April 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes and has assumed the Lightning's No. 1 job with an ankle injury having sidelined Anders Lindback since March 20.

"It's definitely nice to have, but it doesn't change anything," Bishop said after Tampa Bay's morning skate at MTS Centre. "It's just a piece of paper. I still have to go out there and perform and do [my] job."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 2:19 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets face critical home contest in playoff push

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets’ margin for error is slim Tuesday evening as they begin their final push toward what would be their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007.

The Jets will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at MTS Centre without defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who is out with what the Jets are terming a "mid-body injury." The Jets downgraded Enstrom’s status to week-to-week during their four-day break.

Jets coach Claude Noel said center Nik Antropov, who has not played since April 2, is a possibility to return later this week as the Jets close out their six-game homestand.

Ondrej Pavelec will again start in net for Winnipeg.

Here is the projected lineup for the Jets:

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Posted On Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 2:20 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets continue playoff push with Enstrom sidelined

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets' push to earn the franchise's first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007 continues Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

The clubs meet at MTS Centre, where the Jets play the third game on their six-game homestand. They'll do so without defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who exited their 4-1 win Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres after a heavy hit from Steve Ott. Jets coach Claude Noel labeled Enstrom as day-to-day with what was termed a mid-body injury. Paul Postma will replace Enstrom.

Defenseman Mike Weaver (lower body) did not accompany the Panthers on their one-game trip to Winnipeg, but his return reportedly is imminent. Center Drew Shore has missed three games but could dress Thursday.

It is expected Jacob Markstrom will start in goal for the Panthers after a one-game respite Sunday. Ondrej Pavelec will make his 38th appearance for the Jets, ranking him second in the NHL to Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators.

Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers and Jets:

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.09.2013 / 1:53 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Vanek possibility to return as Sabres visit Jets

WINNIPEG -- The Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets meet Tuesday at MTS Centre with Eastern Conference playoff positioning at stake.

After the Sabres' morning skate at MTS Centre, Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who has missed six games with an upper-body injury, is a possibility to return against the Jets. Rolston also indicated that Ville Leino likely will not return during the regular season because of an upper-body injury.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 4:38 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Noel understands situation facing Lightning coaches

WINNIPEG -- When Daniel Lacroix, Martin Raymond and Steve Thomas assume interim coaching duties for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets, they will find a kindred spirit in the coach standing behind the Winnipeg bench.

The trio will serve as Tampa Bay's interim coaches while Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman searches for a full-time replacement for Guy Boucher, who was fired late Saturday night.

Jets coach Claude Noel replaced Ken Hitchcock with the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2009-10 season. Noel, an assistant coach on Hitchcock's staff, took over Feb. 3, 2010 and finished the season with a 10-8-6 record. The Blue Jackets did not retain Noel after the season.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 4:08 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Lightning players shifting focus to game vs. Jets

WINNIPEG -- Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning filtered out of the team's pre-game meal Sunday at their downtown hotel and tried to explain the firing of coach Guy Boucher.

Boucher's dismissal came hours before the Lightning meet the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Tampa Bay enters the game 14th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff spot.

"I think all the rest of us in here have to look at ourselves in the mirror," Martin St. Louis said, "and say, 'You know what? I probably can do more, could have done more and am able to do more.'"

Boucher's firing means that 23-year-old Steven Stamkos will play for his fourth coach in five seasons when vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman names Boucher's replacement.

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Posted On Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 2:57 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Lightning, Jets

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets have plenty of turmoil after consecutive home losses in which the Washington Capitals outscored them 10-1.

But Sunday the Jets will face the Tampa Bay Lightning at MTS Centre, an opponent with even more upheaval after the Lightning fired coach Guy Boucher early Sunday morning. General manager Steve Yzerman announced Sunday that assistant coaches Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond, along with player development coach Steve Thomas, will run the Tampa Bay bench on an interim basis.

After playing Saturday at the Ottawa Senators, the Lightning did not have a pre-game skate Sunday morning.

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Posted On Friday, 03.22.2013 / 1:20 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Holtby, Pavelec back in net for Capitals-Jets rematch

WINNIPEG – The Washington Capitals’ season is still on the line Friday evening when they face the Winnipeg Jets for the second consecutive night at MTS Centre.

But the Capitals (13-16-1) bought themselves some breathing room after shutting out the Jets 4-0 Thursday night to move themselves five points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Winnipeg (16-13-2) did not hold a morning skate at MTS Centre, and the Capitals’ optional skate had five players.

Capitals coach Adam Oates will return to Braden Holtby in net one night after he shut out the Jets for the second time this month in Winnipeg. Oates said he will dress the same lineup that featured the return of defenseman Mike Green from a 10-game injury absence. The Capitals also reportedly placed right wing Joey Crabb on waivers to alleviate a roster glut.

The Jets will again turn to goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who will start his 10th consecutive game. Winnipeg’s blue line was dealt another injury blow Thursday when a heavy third-period hit from Alex Ovechkin ended Mark Stuart’s evening. Jets coach Claude Noel described Stuart as “banged up” and termed him a game-time decision. Noel also said he may tinker with his lineup.

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Jets for the game Friday:

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Posted On Thursday, 03.21.2013 / 2:16 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Green a game-time decision for Capitals

WINNIPEG -- The Washington Capitals’ season may be on the line Thursday when they meet the Winnipeg Jets for the first of a pair of games at MTS Centre.

The Capitals (12-16-1) sit seven points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot and face a pair of nearly must-win games if they are to remain in contention. But a Washington blue line missing four regulars could regain Mike Green's services against Winnipeg. Green, who has missed 10 consecutive games with a groin injury, participated in the Capitals' morning skate, but Washington coach Adam Oates labeled him a "game-time decision."

Braden Holtby will make his third consecutive start in goal for the Capitals after a 36-save performance Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a 2-1 loss that Oates termed "probably the best game all year."

Jets coach Claude Noel will start Ondrej Pavelec in goal for the eighth straight game.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.19.2013 / 2:40 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Jets continue playoff push against Bruins

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets will look to continue their push toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they meet the Boston Bruins on Tuesday at MTS Centre.

Both teams will return to action after shuffling their rosters Monday. The Bruins rolled into Winnipeg for a meeting with the Jets after sustaining a rare blemish to their 9-3-2 road record Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Quote of the Day

It is really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight, and for my first [NHL] game in here it was great. I played here as an elementary-school player in the city championships and this was my first time back. It was a lot of fun.

— Toronto native Brandon Pirri after scoring 2 goals for Panthers in win at Maple Leafs on Thursday
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