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GAME DAY: Jets open three-game trip tonight in Tampa

6:30pm CT - TV: TSN3; Radio: TSN 1290

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

Video: JetsTV Road Report

TAMPA, FL - The Winnipeg Jets open the 2017 portion of their schedule tonight when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first of two meetings between the two clubs this season.

The Jets are looking to erase the memory of the 6-2 loss to the New York Islanders on New Year's Eve, and while the mood around the team has been light since arriving in Florida on New Year's Day, head coach Paul Maurice doesn't want that mood to be confused with over confidence.

"We're focused on the game with a positive attitude toward it. We didn't like our last performance. We can pout about it or make it better tonight with the right kind of effort," said Maurice. "We're just trying to get the minds right, and get back to feeling good. Sometimes you have to force yourself into that. Get talking on the ice, get moving, get snapping it around, and the next thing you know you're feeling good about your game before you even play one.

"That was the mentality over the last two days."

Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice

Tonight's game is the first in the seventh set of back-to-back games the Jets will play this season. The team is 3-2-1 in the front half of back-to-backs overall, but will have their hands full with a Lightning team that is 2-0-1 on their current five-game home stand, and are 11-5-2 overall at AMALIE Arena.

"Tampa has a lot of speed and skill up front. Their defenceman are always jumping in the play, which is a theme you kind of see all the time now," said Josh Morrissey. "I think Tampa does it really well. It's going to be a fast game tonight."

Injuries have been piling up for the Lightning since mid-November. With Steven Stamkos already out four months with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle will also miss tonight's match up with Winnipeg.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper may have some good news though, as Ryan Callahan is probable for tonight's game. Even with the injuries, the Lightning power play has struck at least once in eight of the team's last 10 games.

Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey

During that same time span, Winnipeg's power play is 10th in the league, clicking at 23.1 percent. Maurice attributes that as much to confidence as he does personnel.

"The day Bryan Little got back, we're winning more face-offs in the offensive zone, so the first breakout is gone," he said. "We went a long time with Patrik Laine not in the spot he wanted to be in. He was in the spot, but it was running from the wrong side of the ice.

"With all those lefties out of our line-up we couldn't get it to work a different way. Now the right hands are in, we've got two units that we believe in equally can score goals. And practice time has had a big impact on it."

Connor Hellebuyck was the first goaltender off the ice following Winnipeg's morning skate at AMALIE Arena, while Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to get his sixth straight start tonight. Since Bishop went down with a lower body injury on Dec. 20, Vasilevskiy is 4-1-1 with a 2.47 goals against average.

Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

But regardless of who is across the ice from them, the Jets are focused on their own game, and working to improve their record against the Eastern Conference, which sits at 5-10-2.

"Coming here on the road trip, we need to have a good start tonight," said Morrissey. "The couple days here, we've refocused and learned a few things that we were doing wrong in that game. For us it's just coming out and playing a hard full 60 minutes. We need to start this road trip off big tonight and be ready to go."

LATE HITS

Tyler Myers joined the team near the end of the morning skate in a non-contact jersey. Myers has missed the last 23 games with a lower body injury, and his presence on the ice resulted in a massive ovation from his teammates, who banged sticks against the boards and the ice.

"I didn't know if the jumbotron was on or what was going on, but that was a pretty good cheer to have him out there. He's not hard to find at that size wearing orange," said Maurice with a smile.

The coach added he doesn't have a firm timeline for Myers' return just yet.

"We'll get through a real light day tomorrow, and we'll just start adding minutes. After that, he's been off the ice so very long… he's going to have to get pushed real hard on the ice before he gets back in the line-up."

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

Video: PREGAME | Ben Chiarot

JETS GAME NOTES

Tonight's Game

The Winnipeg Jets begin a three-game road trip to start 2017 tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning…The Jets dropped a pair of home games last week to close out 2016, losing 5-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday and 6-2 to the New York Islanders on Saturday…The Lightning are playing the fourth game of a five-game homestand tonight, during which they are 2-0-1…Winnipeg plays again Wednesday night against the Florida Panthers.

Sunshine State Back-to-Back

The Jets play their first of three back-to-back sets on their January schedule this week in Florida…Winnipeg will also play back-to-back in Arizona and Los Angeles on Jan. 13-14 and at home on Jan. 23-24 against Anaheim and San Jose…The Jets are 3-2-1 in the first game of back-to-backs and 3-2-1 in the second game of back-to-back games this season.

Beasts in the East

The Jets are 5-10-2 against Eastern Conference teams this season, including 3-3-1 against Atlantic Division teams…Of the five wins against the East, three have come in overtime or a shootout - Oct. 13 vs. CAR 5-4 OTW, Oct. 19 vs. TOR 5-4 OTW and Dec. 15 vs. FLA 4-2 SOW…The Jets are 1-3-1 in their last five games against Eastern Conference teams and are in a stretch of five consecutive games (0-2-0) against Eastern Conference opponents.

Coming Out of the Break

Since relocating to Winnipeg, the Jets have hovered around .500 in the short-term following the Christmas break…The season-by-season breakdown is below (excluding the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, which started in January of 2013).

Double-Digit Scorers

With his third period goal on Saturday, Nikolaj Ehlers became the fourth member of the Jets to reach double-digit goals this season…Ehlers (10) joins Patrik Laine (19), Mark Scheifele (15) and Blake Wheeler (11) in that group…The Jets are one of seven teams in the NHL that have four players with 10 goals or more...The New York Rangers lead the NHL with six players with 10 goals or more, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have five.

Trouba Hits the Scoresheet

After having three points in his first 15 games of the season, defenceman Jacob Trouba has seven points (1g, 6a) in his last nine games, including four assists in his last three games…Since Dec. 10, Trouba leads Jets defencemen in scoring with seven points.

Jets vs. Lightning Notes

- Winnipeg lost a pair of extra time games to Tampa Bay last season - Oct. 23 4-3 OTL in Winnipeg and Feb. 18 6-5 SOL in Tampa Bay.
- The Jets are 5-2-2 in their last nine games against the Lightning.
- The Jets have earned points in six of their last seven trips to Tampa Bay (4-1-2).
- The last four games between the Jets and Lighting in Tampa Bay have been decided by one goal, during which the Jets are 3-0-1.
- Of the eight games the Jets have played in Tampa Bay since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, seven have been decided by one goal, during which the Jets are 4-1-2.
- The Jets have taken at least 11 minutes in penalties in each of their last six games at Amalie Arena, including 38 PIMs Mar. 1/12 in a 3-2 overtime loss.
- Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck hasn't played the Lightning yet in his NHL career, while Michael Hutchinson stopped all nine shots he faced Oct. 24/14 at MTS Centre in 18:09 of relief work in his only action against the Lightning.
- Blake Wheeler leads the Jets with 23 points (8g, 15a) in 27 career games against Tampa Bay.

Special Teams Notes

- The Jets are 5-for-17 (29.4%) on the power play in their last five games.
- The Jets are 13-for-16 (81.3%) on the penalty kill in their last five games.
 
Quick Hits

- The Jets have played 20 games on the road compared to 19 at home…That difference will increase in the next two weeks, as the Jets play six of their next eight games and 10 of their next 16 games on the road.

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