WINNIPEG – Neither the Tampa Bay Lightning nor the Winnipeg Jets will be bidding for an invitation to the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they meet tonight at MTS Centre.
But both clubs have built-in incentives tonight when they play their respective season finales. The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos is one goal away from the 60-goal mark, while the Jets will be skating before a sold-out Winnipeg crowd for the final time this season.
Helping Stamkos to become the first NHL player to reach 60 goals since Alexander Ovechkin did so in the 2007-08 season has been something of a mission this week for his teammates. Still, for a club that reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final last May, playing out the schedule has required a mental adjustment from the Tampa Bay dressing room.
“In terms of motivation, it's certainly not ideal for either team,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher admitted after Tampa Bay’s morning skate.
Down the hallway at MTS Centre, Jets coach Claude Noel echoed similar thoughts as his clubs prepares to play in front of the 41st home sellout this season.
“I just want us to play well and play hard for the fans and play for the right reasons for each other.”
Dwayne Roloson will start for the Lightning against Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec. Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Lightning and Jets:
Martin St. Louis – Steven Stamkos – Ryan Malone
J.T. Brown – Vincent Lecavalier – Teddy Purcell
Nate Thompson – Tom Pyatt – JT Wyman
Brett Connolly – Adam Hall – Brian Lee
Eric Brewer – Victor Hedman
Brett Clark – Bruno Gervais
Keith Aulie – Brendan Mikkelson
Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane – Alexander Burmistrov – Antti Miettinen
Spencer Machacek – Jim Slater – Chris Thorburn
Patrice Cormier – Nik Antropov – Tim Stapleton
Tobias Enstrom – Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart – Zach Bogosian
Mark Flood – Grant Clitsome