WINNIPEG -- After four long days, three of those with fast-paced practices, it’s finally game day for the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets (4-2-0) are focusing on a strong start, as they’ve been outscored 4-1 in the opening 20 minutes so far this season.
“I think it’s all about your mindset. Coming to the game prepared and ready to go,” said centre Mark Scheifele. “Have a good warm up, and start your first few shifts trying to get it deep, trying to get a cycle game going, then trying to get your game from there.”
Tonight’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, come into MTS Centre sporting a 4-2-1 record. The two teams split last season’s games, with the Jets winning in Amalie Arena 2-1 on March 14, 2015.
Ben Chiarot, who missed the last three games with an injury, looks to be returning to the line-up tonight based on morning skate’s line rushes. When he looks at the Lightning roster, he sees some familiar names from earlier in his career.
“I played against a lot of the guys on their team in the minors. They had a pretty good team,” said Chiarot. “Killorn, Johnson, a lot of them were down there. So I’ve got some experience against a lot of them.”
He also has experience playing on the blue line with Tyler Myers, who he was paired with during morning skate. The two played together late last season when Chiarot returned from his hand injury.
“He’s similar to Buff in that he jumps up a lot. He’s obviously a great offensive defence man, as well as great defensively too. He jumps up, he’s a great skater. I’ll look to support him.”
The complete line rushes at MTS Centre this morning looked similar to yesterday’s practice:
Nic Petan is also projected to return to the line-up tonight after sitting out Sunday’s game against St. Louis. He looks forward to going up against Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov, if they’re on the ice together.
“I think growing up, you watch them and even last year in the playoffs, you watch. I think it’s just an opportunity to play against those guys,” he said. “You’re always excited to play against guys that are a similar size and similar skill.”
Coach Paul Maurice has noticed the shift in the NHL that has allowed for younger, smaller players to stand out and contribute for their teams.
“At the end of the day, you still are going to get into a one-on-one confrontation on the ice with a player. You’re not asking those guys to put that other player on his butt. You’re asking him to come up with the puck,” said Maurice. “What our guys are learning now is how to compete in those one-on-one battles and use what they have - great hand skills, great quickness - to protect the puck, steal the puck, to win that battle. Win it a different way.
“They just have to be able to win enough one-on-ones in their own skill set, to buy them time to use the skills they do have.”
When the Jets and Lightning go one-on-one tonight at 7 pm CT tonight, Winnipeg will be looking to get back in the win column in the third game of a six-game home stand.
“Obviously we know they’re a good team getting to the finals last year. They’re strong, and we know they have a lot of skill,” said Scheifele. “We want to focus on playing our game. We want to continue to grow as a team and continue to get better.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com