Jets-Lightning Preview

BY foxsports • February 17, 2016

A weeklong rough stretch has left the Tampa Bay Lightning feeling a sense of urgency.

The Winnipeg Jets have felt that way for much longer.

Looking to avoid a fifth loss in six games, the Lightning try to get back on track against the visiting Jets on Thursday night.

One day after general manager Steve Yzerman said captain Steven Stamkos would not be moved before this month's trade deadline, Tampa Bay (30-22-4) failed to generate a spark from the news and fell 4-2 to San Jose on Tuesday. The Lightning have followed a nine-game home winning streak with back-to-back defeats at Amalie Arena, and sit just outside of playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

''When you keep losing, you're not climbing the standings,'' said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, whose team hasn't dropped three straight since a season-high four-game slide Oct. 24-31.

''You're going the wrong way."

Though the effort appears to be there, Cooper's players know the margin for error is slim.

"We've got 26 games left and they're all going to be important," said Ben Bishop, who has a 3.33 goals-against average while losing three of four. "It's gut-check time."

Tampa Bay needs to see improvement on the offensive end where it's been held to one or two goals in the four losses over the last five games. It's 1 for 14 on the power play in those five after going 6 for 20 in the previous five.

Stamkos has been held without a point in the last four defeats.

The Lightning have dropped three straight 2-1 decisions at home to the Jets (25-28-3), but earned a 4-3 overtime victory at Winnipeg on Oct. 23.

Tampa Bay's Cedric Paquette had a goal with an assist in that contest. He's recorded three points in 28 games since, but his third goal of the season came Tuesday.

Sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference, the Jets haven't showed any real signs of being a team that can make a serious last-season playoff push. They've managed five non-shootout goals while splitting the last four and were held to eight of their 21 shots in the first two periods of Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Carolina.

"Back to the drawing board," forward Drew Stafford said after the Jets fell for the 10th time in 16 games. "It starts with our compete on pucks, the battles."

Winnipeg is 1 for 20 on the power play in four games after going 5 for 12 in the previous five. A unit that ranks near the bottom of the league in penalty-kill percentage (77.4) also allowed the Hurricanes to score both goals with the main advantage.

"Again we lost the special teams battle," said Jets forward Mathieu Perreault, who has two points in eight games. "We've got to clean it up."

Leading scorer Blake Wheeler remains a consistent offensive presence for Winnipeg with a goal in two straight games and four points in the last three. He's recorded five goals and seven assists during an eight-game point streak against the Lightning.

Stamkos, who had a 14-game point streak against the Jets end with last season's home defeat, has 25 goals and 18 assists in 31 meetings.

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