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At the Rink: Lightning at Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle will be a game-time decision as they continue their four-game road trip through the Central Division against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday (8 p.m. ET; SUN, TSN3).

"[Boyle is] not feeling great," Cooper said. "We'll see tonight."

The Lightning also visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, and seeing how they match up against some of the Central Division's top teams this weekend intrigues coach Jon Cooper.

"I think we've gotten progressively better, so I'm looking forward," Cooper said. "We want to see where we stand up."

"[The Jets are] big. They're strong. They can play fast. They've got grit. There are a lot of things to like in the Winnipeg Jets. I'm looking forward to it because they're built a little bit differently than we are. We're a little bit smaller. We're quick. We're based on a bit more speed, so it should be interesting how this plays out."

The Lightning have points in each of their past two games (1-0-1) and forward Steven Stamkos has five goals in his first seven games.

"I'd say we're definitely not satisfied (with the start of the season), but we're slowly getting on the right track," said Stamkos, who will play his 500th NHL game Friday.

Winnipeg will be tasked with stopping a Tampa Bay offense that has averaged 3.3 goals per game. Defenseman Ben Chiarot will be back in the lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury, replacing Adam Pardy. With Chiarot healthy, coach Paul Maurice will alter his defensive pairings. Chiarot will skate with Tyler Myers while Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom will pair.

"Not giving [Tampa Bay] time and space to make their plays is important," Chiarot said. "They can kill you if they have time and space. They can make those skilled plays. Be hard on them. We have to make it a long night for them."

Chiarot is in his second season in the NHL and has mostly played with Byfuglien. However, he said his role with Myers will be similar.

"I'll just look to support him, be back there for him and be a safety (valve) for him and just do everything to support what he is doing," Chiarot said.

Maurice will also make a change to his fourth line, inserting Nic Petan for Anthony Peluso.

Stamkos is Tampa Bay's most dangerous weapon, but Maurice is wary of the Tampa Bay blue line as well.

"Their game is a team game," Maurice said. "A lot of it for me is based on their back end, what they do in their own end, how they move the puck, how they join the rush opens up ice for their offensive players."

Goalie Ben Bishop has played in each game this season and will start for the Lightning. Winnipeg will start Ondrej Pavelec.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan DrouinSteven StamkosRyan Callahan

Ondrej PalatTyler JohnsonNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornValtteri FilppulaErik Condra

J.T. BrownVladislav NamestnikovCedric Paquette

Victor HedmanAnton Stralman

Matt CarleJason Garrison

Braydon CoburnAndrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: J.T. Brown, Nikita Nesterov

Injured: Andrei Vasilevskiy (blood clot)


Andrew LaddBryan LittleBlake Wheeler

Mathieu PerreaultMark ScheifeleNikolaj Ehlers

Alexander BurmistrovAdam LowryDrew Stafford

Chris ThorburnAndrew CoppNic Petan

Toby EnstromDustin Byfuglien

Ben ChiarotTyler Myers

Mark StuartJacob Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back)

Status report: Pavelec has started four of the first six games, but Maurice said that he has not decided on a No. 1 goaltender. "The decision on who is going to play the bulk of the games isn't going to be made until later when our schedule gets heavier," Maurice said. "We have confidence in [Pavelec and Hutchinson]."

Who's hot: Palat has a two-game assists streak. … Wheeler has tied his career high with a six-game point streak (three goals, five assists). Little has a three-game point streak (three goals, two assists).

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