NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, April 7th (All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (37-36-8) at Winnipeg Jets (37-35-9), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Although the Lightning will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos enters tonight's season finale with a chance at reaching 60 goals.
Stamkos will shoot for the rare feat tonight, as the Lightning visit the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre in the 2011-12 finale for both teams.
The 22-year-old Stamkos has scored nine goals over his last eight games, bringing his franchise-record and league-leading total to 59 goals. With just one more marker, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 draft would become the first NHLer to reach 60 tallies since Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals for Washington in 2007-08. Prior to Ovechkin, nobody had posted a 60-goal season in the NHL since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr both did it for Pittsburgh in 1995-96.
Winnipeg, meanwhile, will complete its first season since relocating from Atlanta tonight. Although the Jets fell short in their quest for a playoff spot, the club had a fairly successful first season in Manitoba after the Thrashers franchise moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg over the summer.
Winnipeg played its best hockey in front of the home crowd, going 23-13-4 at the MTS Centre this season. The Jets will finish the season at home this evening after posting a 2-1-1 record during their recent four-game road trip.
The Jets completed their road schedule with a 14-22-5 record after losing to the New York Islanders on Thursday. Michael Grabner scored two goals in the third period for New York, including the game-winner inside the final minute, to lift the Islanders to the 5-4 decision at Nassau Coliseum.
Tobias Enstrom, Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien supplied the offense for Winnipeg, while Chris Mason made 23 saves in defeat.
"We didn't quit and it was good character by the group to battle back," Jets forward Evander Kane said. "It's unfortunate the way it ended up with them scoring in the last minute. That's definitely disappointing."
The Lightning are also out of the playoff picture just one year after coming within one victory of reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Tampa Bay was also done in by its inability to win on the road, as the Bolts were 25-14-2 at home and enter tonight's game with a dismal 12-22-6 record as the guest.
Tampa Bay is closing the season on a three-game road trip and is 0-1-1 so far on the swing. The Lightning were dealt a 5-2 setback Wednesday night in Montreal and then lost an overtime decision in Toronto the following night. Dion Phaneuf scored 4:01 into the extra session to lift the Maple Leafs to the 3-2 decision.
Stamkos and Martin St. Louis scored against Toronto, while Dwayne Roloson gave up three goals on 31 shots. The goal by St. Louis was his 25th of the season, giving him at least 25 goals in a team-record nine straight campaigns.
"We were in this game, I mean we had 40 shots, but their goaltender played hard," said Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher. "We gave a good effort tonight, but just fell short."
A win or an overtime/shootout loss tonight would give Tampa Bay its second straight season with a record above .500. The Lightning were 46-25-11 in 2010-11.
The Jets have won three of five against Tampa Bay this season, but the Lightning have still claimed 13 of their last 16 tests against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise.
04/07 10:45:56 ET