Lightning-Jets Preview

The Associated Press

The Winnipeg Jets are trying to remain focused on their own play during their playoff push and not on the out-of-town scoreboard.

Still trying to creep back into the Eastern Conference's top eight, Winnipeg seeks a season-best fourth straight victory as it continues its homestand against a Tampa Bay Lightning team hoping to avoid a fifth consecutive road loss.

The Jets, in their second season in Canada after moving from Atlanta, have qualified for the playoffs only once - in 2006-07 - during the franchise's 13-season existence.

Winnipeg (21-19-2) put its postseason chances in jeopardy with a five-game skid from March 28-April 4, but it has outscored opponents 15-4 while winning the first three of a six-game homestand after Thursday's 7-2 win over Florida.

Evander Kane scored twice for the Jets, who are two points behind the New York Rangers for the East's final playoff spot and four back of Washington for the Southeast Division lead.

"We've come out and wanted to kind of bury teams early in the game," said Kane, who has three goals and two assists on the homestand. "Instead of talking we're just going out there and doing it and that's good to see.''

Captain Andrew Ladd extended his point streak to four with a goal and an assist, and Blake Wheeler also added an assist.

"We went through a tough stretch and kind of took ourselves out of it a little bit," Wheeler said. "It's going to take playing your best hockey this time of year. If that equals us making the playoffs, then we're going to be a tough team to play. At the end of the day, if we don't win games then it doesn't matter what anyone else does."

Though Winnipeg will face teams down the stretch with plenty to play for - including an April 23rd showdown with Washington - Tampa Bay is all but out of the playoff discussion after falling 3-1 to Buffalo on Sunday.

The Lightning (17-22-3) are 1-4-1 over their last six overall and 0-3-1 in their last four on the road.

''Well, let's be realists - we're out of it,'' coach Jon Cooper said.

Steven Stamkos, whose 26 goals trail Alex Ovechkin by one for the NHL lead, failed to score for the seventh time in eight games Sunday. Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, though, each have 52 points and trail the injured Sidney Crosby by four for the league lead.

St. Louis scored twice in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss to Washington as the Lightning rallied from a pair of four-goal deficits before falling.

''I know we laid a lot on the line (Saturday),'' Cooper said. "(Sunday) was one of those games, it looked like who ever was going to score first was probably going to win the game.''

Stamkos has six goals and four assists during a six-game goal-scoring streak versus the Jets, who have won two of three meetings this season.

Ondrej Pavelec has posted a 1.33 goals-against average during Winnipeg's streak and could be in net again for this contest, though he's 1-1-2 with a 4.08 GAA in his last four versus the Lightning.

It's unclear if Ben Bishop or Mathieu Garon will be in goal for Tampa Bay after Garon made 19 saves in Sunday's loss.

What to Read Next