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Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: All of the skilled forwards are in Tampa tonight

Two of the best forward groups in the league meet tonight.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Jets at Bolts: Game #29

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Sun Sports, FSGO

Opponent SBNation Site: Arctic Ice Hockey

Preview:

If you like skilled forward play, tonight’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets should be appointment television. And if you don’t like skilled forward play, wow are you in the wrong fandom. This must be a very hard time for you to be a Bolts fan. Maybe you should go root for the Sabres or something for a while. [Wow Alan just @TSN next time - Acha ]

Tonight’s game features possibly the best two top-six forward groups in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov and Blake Wheeler are the two best wings in the game. Steven Stamkos and Patrik Laine are two of the best three shooters in the game. Mark Scheifele has become a lethal finisher. Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and Nik Ehlers are all first line talents who will be playing on second lines tonight. And oh yeah, Vlad Namestnikov and Kyle Connor are pretty good too.

I guess what I’m saying is: this is my kind of game. Watching players who can attack and finish like these two forward groups is the thing I enjoy most about hockey. Unless both coaches force a conservative style to try to counter the other teams’ skill, tonight should feature plenty of speed, tape to tape passing, and shots that give goalies nightmares.

While both teams are stacked at the top, the difference between the two might lie in the depth. The Bolts have a strong third line and a fourth line that doesn’t score much but still pushes play effectively. The Jets don’t quite match up in that part of the lineup.

As for the defense, honestly, who cares? If there is justice in the universe, this game won’t be about defense. It looks possible that Jake Dotchin returns for the Lightning tonight, which would likely push Andrej Sustr back out of the lineup. And while that would be a positive for the Lightning, I can barely muster any interest in the blue line because my entire vision for this game is just: GOALZZZZ!!!!!

Comparison chart:

The Jets have again been statistically underwhelming despite their talent for most of this season. But over the last ten games, their shot quantity has spiked significantly. They haven’t seen a corresponding spike in quality so their expected goal numbers don’t look as good. At least in terms of quantity though, they’re finally starting to look the way a team with this much offensive firepower should.

One matchup to call out specifically is the Lightning power play against the Jets penalty kill. The Jets have one of the worst kills in the league and the Lightning have been dangerous with the advantage. The Jets will want to avoid taking penalties tonight even more than normal to avoid going weakness against strength with the Lightning.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Cory Conacher

Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin (maybe)

Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman

Slater Koekkoek - Dan Girardi

Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Opponent lines

Forward Lines

Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Patrik Laine

Andrew Copp - Adam Lowry - Brandon Tanev

Mathieu Perreault - Matt Hendricks - Joel Armia

Defense Pairings

Josh Morrissey - Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot - Dusting Byfuglien

Dmitry Kulikov - Tyler Myers

Goalies

Connor Hellebuyck

Eric Comrie