The Winnipeg Jets are playing their final match of a three game homestand which has them at 1-1 thus far. After losing to Nashville on Sunday, they came back and beat the Canucks on Tuesday. Today’s matchup is a bit different as the Jets host the Lightning for the first and only time this season. It’s a much stiffer test when Tampa Bay comes to town as the Lightning are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. They had won 11 of their last 12 games before taking on the Wild last night. This recent play has vaulted them into second place in the Atlantic division.

It’s always fun to see one of the leagues’ best teams come to town and here’s what you should watch for in this one.

1) Hellebuyck

Connor Hellebuyck was sensational in the 4-0 win against the Canucks on Tuesday. For that matter, he was also sensational against the Predators on Sunday, but the Jets happened to lose a 1-0 game. In those two games, Hellebuyck has stopped a ridiculous 72-73 shots for a sparkling .986 sv%.

While some fans haven’t been too happy with Winnipeg’s struggles at home this season, Hellebuyck’s great play is one reason to show up to Bell MTS Place and watch this team play. In addition to his great play, Hellebuyck also passed Pavelec for the franchise record in shutouts. Hellebuyck recorded his 18th career shutout to give him sole possession of first for the franchise.

2) Niku

The recent #freeniku campaign will finally get their wish as it appears that Sami Niku will be playing in the top four against the Lightning.

With five games played this season, Niku is finally starting to get some time at the NHL level. He even played an impressive 21:50 against the Predators on Sunday. The biggest thing for Niku is to use his skating and passing ability to cleanly get the puck out of the defensive end. The issue with Niku is his ability to defend, so the logical conclusion is to get the puck out of the zone before getting hemmed in. It’s obviously easier said than done, but Niku has the tools to be an effective defender at the NHL level.

3) Injuries

It’s been a terrible run for Winnipeg in terms of injuries this season with a plethora of players going down at various times. It’s been the defense who’s been getting hurt lately which gives an already thin blueline an even tougher task.

With both Poolman and Dahlstrom officially on injured reserve, it leaves only six healthy defensemen for the upcoming road-trip. We will have to wait and see who gets the call to come along next week.

4) Scorers

Of all current Jets players, only Ehlers and Laine have averaged a point per game against the Lightning for their career. In terms of the most points however, Wheeler takes the cake with 33 points in 34 games against the Lightning.

As for who’s been hot recently, Kyle Connor had a great night against the Canucks. He scored two goals and added one assist which now gives him five points in his last three games. Those two goals also separated him from Scheifele for the team lead as Connor now has 24 while Scheifele has 22.

Bold Prediction

Niku will impress in his top four role and the Jets will get some big offense to get the victory. Tampa Bay will be caught without rest as they played against the Wild last night and Winnipeg will take advantage. Hellebuyck has another great performance as the Jets win 5-1.

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