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Jets set to host struggling Lightning

by Mike Battaglino

LIGHTNING (13-17-1) at JETS (16-14-2)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 4-6-0; Winnipeg 6-3-1

Season series: This is the third meeting after a split of the first two. Tampa Bay scored a season-high in an 8-3 win on Feb. 1; Winnipeg won 2-1 on March 7. The final game is April 16.

Big story: The teams seem to be falling apart at the worst time in an up-for grabs Southeast Division. Tampa Bay has trailed 4-0 in each of its two losses this week, and Winnipeg lost back-to-back home games to the Washington Capitals by a combined score of 10-1.

"It's a pretty bad feeling when your own fans are booing you out of the game," Jets forward Olli Jokinen said Friday. "We're disappointed with the way we've played here the last couple of days but at the same time we try to stay positive. We believe we're a good team and we will be better Sunday."

Team Scope:

Lightning: After routing Winnipeg to start February, Tampa Bay was 6-1-0. The Lightning have gone 7-16-1 since.

The latest setback came Saturday at the Ottawa Senators when the Lightning fell behind 4-0 in the first period before losing 5-3. They trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 after two periods in a 4-2 loss Tuesday.

"I'm not frustrated; I'm working," coach Guy Boucher said after Saturday's loss. "I'm already thinking of Winnipeg right now."

Goalie Cedric Desjardins stopped all 14 shots he faced Saturday in relief of Mathieu Garon, who started with Anders Lindback out indefinitely with an ankle sprain.

"He played terrific," Boucher said of Desjardins. Asked who will start Sunday, the coach said, "I'll think about it. I don't think I'll think very long."

Jets: Coach Claude Noel gave his team Saturday off, remaining confident after two straight blowout losses at home, where Winnipeg is 7-8-0.

"I still like our team," Noel said. "And we're still at the top of our division, we're still a team that I believe will make the playoffs, and that's what we're going with."

The Jets took over first place with a 6-1-1 stretch that started with a win against the Lightning.

"For us we're trying to keep an even keel and a balanced approach here," Noel said. "And we're going to do the same through this, and we're not going to get emotionally, hit the floor with depression here.

"It's a bump in the road, and it's how we deal with this. We have to focus on Sunday and we have to put our best foot forward on Sunday and move forward from there. And that's how we'll deal with it. If it was easy everybody would be at the top, and you have to earn your way to the top."

Goalie Ondrej Pavelec was pulled Friday after starting nine straight and playing in 20 of the past 21.

Who's hot: Lightning forward Tyler Johnson has six points (three goals) in five games since joining the team March 14. … Jets forward Andrew Ladd has at least one point in nine of 12 March games. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored Friday and has 10 shots in the past two games.

Injury report: Lindback was hurt Thursday. Forwards Ryan Malone (shoulder), Benoit Pouliot (shoulder) and Vincent Lecavalier (lower body) are on injured reserve. … Jets defensemen Tobias Enstrom (shoulder) and Zach Redmond (leg), and forwards Jim Slater (upper body) and Anthony Peluso (hand) are out.

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