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Blizzard, Jets await Lightning as it resumes schedule

The top team in the league faces one of the top teams in the Western Conference
Nikita Kucherov watches the puck go into the net while scoring one of his three goals during Sunday's All-Star Game 
DIRK SHADD | Times
Nikita Kucherov watches the puck go into the net while scoring one of his three goals during Sunday's All-Star Game DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Jan. 30, 2018
Updated Jan. 30, 2018

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – While most of this region is bracing today for a blizzard that can dump as much as 5 inches in Winnipeg and more in the northern parts of this region, the Jets are bracing for the Lightning.

Both teams return to action tonight following the three-day All-Star Break.

The Lightning (34-12-3) enters the game with the best record in hockey and the most points (71).

RELATED: NHL All-Stars on what Mikhail Sergachev can learn from his healthy scratches

Winnipeg (29-13-8) is not too shabby either, holding a one-point lead over the Predators (66-65) for first place in the Central Division and keeping pace with the expansion Golden Knights, whose 68 points lead the Pacific and the Western Conference.

Resuming the schedule against the Lightning is one way to quickly regain your focus after the All-Star Weekend spent in Tampa.

"Any time you play this team it's a big challenge," Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said after playing in Sunday's All-Star Game. "It doesn't matter when it is. We have put ourselves in a good spot and we need to continue to grow and continue to get better and this going to be a great opportunity for us to show right off the hop we're one of the best in the league."

LISTEN: Lightning Strikes podcast on the legacy of All-Star Weekend in Tampa

The Jets are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. They begin a 10-game homestand Tuesday that includes a visit from those Golden Knights on Thursday.

The Lightning has won its last three on this eight-game road trip that was interrupted by the All-Star festivities.

Defenseman Victor Hedman traveled with the team. He has not played since Jan. 11, when he suffered a lower body injury. His return was expected to take three-to-six weeks. That he accompanied the team on the second leg of the road trip is a sign he could return soon.

"He's a big piece of that team," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said Sunday. "But they have other pieces."

Lightning  forward Brayden Point said Sunday he likes how his team played during its past three games.

"The goal is to make the playoffs, now," he said.

"Just finish strong," added the NHL's leading scorer Nikita Kucherov.

While Helleybuyck is glad for the chance to face the top team in the league, Kucherov said it's not important who the Lightning face tonight.

"We don't pick who we play against. It's just scheduling," he said. "For us, it doesn't matter who we play, so just go out there and do what we can."

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50