Losing two of three games isn't the end of the world for the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially on the heels of a 10-game winning streak.
However, after dropping a 3-2 clash at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday to kick off a six-game road trip, the Lightning don't want to let bad habits creep into their repertoire -- bad habits that came to the fore in Minnesota -- and they want to eliminate them when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
"We weren't moving our feet, and we weren't breaking out with speed," Steven Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times. "We were just flat-footed."
The Lightning, sitting solidly in the second spot in the Atlantic Division, actually had a strong start to Thursday's clash, holding the Wild without a shot for more than 12 minutes, but the momentum completely flipped.
"We just didn't play our way from the beginning of the game," said forward Nikita Kucherov, who has 12 points in the past 10 games. "It just didn't feel like we were doing the right things. We had so many turnovers in the game that we usually don't. We have to be better next game."
After Curtis McElhinney tended goal against the Wild, expect Tampa Bay to turn to Andrei Vasilevskiy against the Jets. Vasilevskiy, who leads the NHL with 23 wins, has won nine straight, and collected a .943 save percentage and 1.77 goals-against average in that streak. He hasn't lost in regulation since Dec. 14 versus Washington, during which he's posted a 10-0-1 record.
The Jets, who sit just outside a playoff position and are coming off a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, continue to hang in the race despite a rash of turnovers and injuries to their defensive corps.
The latest woe is a hand injury that will keep Carl Dahlstrom on the shelf at least six weeks. It was Dahlstrom's first game back after missing nearly two weeks.
"It hurts for him obviously, but for yourself as well. You've gone to the guy a bunch of times and give him the 'hang in there' speech and give him the 'hey work on these things,' " coach Paul Maurice said. "You go through the video of the game and he was wired in and focused and saw it as an opportunity. He hasn't had a whole lot of opportunity to play here. We've played other guys in front of him. It's a heartbreaker for him, for sure."
There is some good news for Winnipeg as defenseman Dmitry Kulikov appears ready to return after missing the Vancouver game due to the flu. Then again, a revolving door has been part of life this season in Winnipeg.
"On a daily basis, you probably switch partners. You play left, you play right, stuff like that," said Luca Sbisa. "We've had a lot of bad luck on the back end but the guys that have been playing have done a great job."
Winnipeg's ability to withstand all the upheaval will be put to the test against the Lightning.
"They're a team that's playing really good hockey as of late," Sbisa said after Thursday's practice. "The stuff we worked on today was basically just creating more traffic in front of the net. Against a team like that, you want to control the puck in their zone. You want to get it deep and let our forwards do the work. Once we have possession, we want to get to the net pretty quick."
--Field Level Media