Jets still have a shot ... barely
KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Jets forward Jim Slater scores on Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., March 30, 2012. (ELLEN OZIER/Reuters)
TAMPA - For the second time in 24 hours, the Winnipeg Jets will attempt to stave off official elimination from the NHL playoff race when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
The Jets roared back to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime on Friday night in Raleigh, N.C., but tonight they will need some help if they’re going to keep a pulse. Even if the Jets win, the Washington Capitals can eliminate them from contention with a victory over Montreal.
“You win tonight, you put yourself in a better situation and hope that people can help you out,” head coach Claude Noel said. “That’s the reality of what we face.”
The Jets can also play the role of official spoiler for the second night in a row. They officially knocked Carolina out of the race on Friday, and they can do the same to Tampa.
Winnipeg will welcome right-winger Chris Thorburn back to the lineup after he missed nine games with a leg injury. He will take the roster spot of Tanner Glass, who suffered a cracked bone in his right foot on Friday against Carolina and will miss the rest of the season. Despite suffering the injury in the first period, Glass finished the game.
“I didn’t realize it was broken at all,” he said Saturday at Tampa Bay Times Forum, his foot in a walking boot and crutches under his arm. “It felt like every other shot block off the foot feels like. I found out afterwards it was broken.
“It’s extremely disappointing. I thought I was going to get all 82 (games) in. It would’ve been the first time in my career to get all 82 in, but sometimes you can’t help things like this.”
In another roster move, the Jets returned centre Ben Maxwell to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps on Saturday morning.
Winnipeg has a chance tonight to win back-to-back road games for the third time this year and first since Feb. 2. It is also seeking its first road win in the second half of a back-to-back in 11 attempts. They will attempt to do it against the high-scoring trio of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
“Who?” Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien deadpanned. “No, they’re definitely good players, and you gotta pay attention.”
Stamkos leads the NHL with a career-high 55 goals in his third NHL season, and he’s enjoying every minute of it, even though the Lightning are destined to miss the playoffs after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference final last season. Stamkos would love to hit the 60-goal plateau.
“When you think about it, I never would’ve dreamed that I would score 55 goals in this league,” Stamkos said. “It’s been a dream come true. It’s all the hard work and getting some bounces and playing with some great players.
“I would love to take advantage of that (and score 60). You never know if you’re ever going to be back here in your career. It’s something I’m not going to force, but if it happens it happens. I’m going to give it my best and play my hardest and see what happens.”
Ondrej Pavelec will start between the pipes for Winnipeg, while Sebastien Caron will counter for Tampa in just his second appearance of the season. The Lightning signed Caron on March 19 after he finished his season with Iserlohn of the German Elite League.