TAMPA, Florida -- Game three of a four-game road trip takes the Winnipeg Jets (25-28-3) into Amalie Arena for the second meeting of the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The first match up came way back on Oct. 23, when Tampa Bay left MTS Centre with a 4-3 overtime win. Tonight, both teams are trying to get back in the win column after both teams lost on Tuesday.
For the Jets, that loss came to the Carolina Hurricanes, and was the first loss the Jets suffered on the road in five games. Head coach Paul Maurice wasn’t happy with the first 40 minutes of that game, and put his team through an intense 50-minute practice yesterday. Today, he looks for a response.
“A little bit of an edge would be appropriate for coming off a loss that you didn’t like your performance. It should be a little quieter morning skate, it should be a little more focused on game time, and there should be a bit more of an edge,” said Maurice. “It’s going to be a bit more of a challenge for them to be driving that pace, because they’re going to feel it a bit out there. But that’s the National Hockey League. It’s all part of that learning process for this team to push themselves through it.”
Jacob Trouba had an assist in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Carolina. He said yesterday’s practice was needed.
“Yesterday was a good day,” he said. “Just have to get ready to rebound and come out with a strong effort tonight against a team that’s fighting for their lives. They’re going to be desperate, and we’re definitely going to need to play a desperate game.”
The Lightning, like the Jets, currently sit outside the playoff picture in their respective conference. At 30-22-4, Tampa Bay is tied with Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference’s final wildcard spot, but they’re on the outside looking in due to a tiebreaker.
After dropping a 4-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Lightning have now lost four of their last five games. Maurice says Tampa Bay’s desperation will up the pace in tonight’s match up.
“They’re going to have to compete, they’re going to have to fight against a good team that’s sitting in ninth,” Maurice said of his players. “So we know what we’re getting out of them.”
Offense has been tough to come by as of late for both teams. The Jets have scored five goals in regulation over the last four games. They’ve been able to turn two of those into shoot out wins, but Maurice says any offensive frustration can’t compromise the team’s structure.
“It’s not a function of a defensive scheme that keeps us out of it. I think in the last seven, we’re third in the NHL in red zone shots, so we’re getting some looks in the slot,” he said. “The frustrating part is when you’re getting those shots and they’re not going in for you, and you’re in 2-1 games. There’s a tendency to open that game up. We open that game up we’re not getting more. We’ll just give up more.”
As for the Lightning, they’ve generated just 10 goals in their last five games, and are 1-for-14 on the power play during that stretch. Leading scorers Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos have been at the forefront of the dry spell, combining for just three goals in their last 27 man games.
But the Jets know a two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner like Stamkos won’t stay quiet for long.
“Obviously a very good player, really good shot, good speed,” said defenceman Tyler Myers. “He’s one of the bigger talents in the league. You certainly want to limit his time and space as much as you can.”
“It’s not just him on this team. They have a lot of good players that don’t need a lot of time, a lot of space, to get the puck off or make a play,” said Trouba. “Just have to be on your game and try to take away time and space as much as you can.”
While Maurice describes yesterday’s practice as a “stiff skate,” he knows the challenge for his team will be playing at the pace they need to in order win for the fourth consecutive time at Amalie Arena.
“It was a stiff skate but it wasn’t all that tough,” said Maurice. “Sometimes you just have to fight through a little adversity.”
Puck drops at 6:30 pm CT.
LINE UP NOTES
After missing yesterday’s practice, Dustin Byfuglien and Adam Lowry were both on the ice for today’s morning skate.
Absent from pre-game skate this morning were Andrew Ladd and Drew Stafford, but Maurice expects them both to be in the line-up tonight.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com