Preview: Two of NHL’s best offenses meet as Lightning host Jets
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. — The resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning face off against one of the West’s best on Saturday when they host the Winnipeg Jets at Amalie Arena.
Entering the week, these were the top two teams in the league, but the Jets have stumbled on the road while Tampa Bay found its game on home ice.
The Lightning have won three consecutive games coming on the heels of a rough road trip that saw Tampa Bay drop three of four. But in consecutive wins against San Jose, New York Islanders and Colorado, the Lightning have scored five or more goals in each game, the first time they have done so since the 2012-13 season.
Tampa Bay scored a total of seven goals on the four-game road trip.
“Urgency has been one of our main elements; it’s something we weren’t happy with the way we were playing,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “We weren’t satisfied with our game and I think we took it upon ourselves, coaching staff and players, to get that edge back that we had at the beginning of the year. And we’ve focused on not fueling the other team’s transition game by turning over pucks in the neutral zone.”
That will be important once again as Tampa Bay faces the top scoring team in the Western Conference. The Jets enter the game with 99 goals on the season.
“They’ve arguably been one of the top teams in the league and you look at their roster and you see why,” Lightning associate head coach Rick Bowness said. “The goaltending has turned around for them, they are big and fast, they have a very big and mobile defense that can move the puck, they have a lot of speed and skill up front. They are a well deserved top team in the league, they are well coached, have a great power play. You can see why they are where they are.”
But Winnipeg has hit the first speed bump since the start of the season as it caps off a three-game road trip. The Jets dropped the first two games, falling in Detroit and Florida, marking the first time Winnipeg has lost consecutive games in regulation since the start of the year. They allowed 11 goals in the process.
“It’s all about regrouping and refocusing. Taking lessons and learning from the last couple of games,” Jets center Bryan Little told the Winnipeg Sun. “There were some positives, but it definitely wasn’t our best hockey. We’re trying to get ready for one of our tougher games of the season.
“Getting our focus back on defense and not giving up as much. We all know we have a lot of skilled guys and we can score goals, but it’s (about having) that defense-first mentality and trusting that we’ll get offense in the game.”
But it’s not time to panic for Winnipeg, which is seeking to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season.
“When you win, you’re not that good and when you lose, you’re not that bad most nights,” head coach Paul Maurice told the Sun. “We’ve got to grind through it.”