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Lightning aim to ground Jets

by John Kreiser

JETS (3-3-1) at LIGHTNING (5-1-0)


Season series: The Southeast Division rivals face off in the first of four games this season. They split last season's six games, three of which were decided in overtime.

Big story: The Lightning continue to light up the scoreboard; they're averaging 4.8 goals through their first six games and have won their last four. Tampa Bay has also had two days off and is catching the Jets on the second night of a back-to-back after Winnipeg lost 6-3 at Florida on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Jets: Winnipeg hit the road this week with a three-game winning streak. But the Jets come to the Tampa Bay Times Forum off back-to-back losses at Montreal and Florida.

Coach Claude Noel was very unhappy with his team's effort on Thursday night, when the Jets couldn't hold a pair of one-goal leads in the third period and were beaten by a team that had dropped five in a row.

"You can slice it how you want. We've got the game in control, but it's a 60-minute game and it came apart in the third period and they scored two power play goals," said Noel, whose team has surrendered five power-play goals in the two losses this week.

Lightning: There have been smiles all around in Tampa so far this season. After a dreadful 2011-12, the Lightning have parlayed the combination of a potent attack, improved defense and better goaltending into a 5-1-0 start, including Tuesday's 5-2 win against Florida. Four of the wins have come at home, where the Lightning also host the New York Rangers on Saturday.

The improvement on defense, especially with the addition of Matt Carle and Sami Salo, has made the biggest difference.

"Our defense has been doing a great job of getting us the puck in a timely fashion," right wing Marty St. Louis told the Tampa Tribune. "It's nice to not spend that much time in our zone. And what I like with our offense, we don't come out with just three, we come out with at least four, as our defense is jumping up in the play.''

Who's hot: Blake Wheeler had two assists on Thursday, giving him eight points in the Jets' last five games. … Steven Stamkos has points in all six of Tampa Bay's games this season and scored his fourth goal of the season in the win against Florida.

Injury report: The Jets played Thursday's game without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury. Defenseman Zach Bogosian is still out with a wrist injury; he's not likely to play until late February. … The Lightning got a scare when defenseman Brendan Mikkelson went headfirst into the boards during Thursday's practice. He's day to day.

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