While there are plenty of games this evening with major playoff implications, the Jets-Lightning contest — involving two teams eliminated from postseason play — holds special significance.
In it, Tampa Bay forward Steve Stamkos will look to become just the 20th player in NHL history to score 60 goals in a single season and needless to say, he’s eagerly anticipating the opportunity.
“You never know when you’re going to get a chance to score 60 ever again,” Stamkos told the National Post. “This could be the closest you ever get, so you want to hit it when you’re that close. But 50 is kind of the benchmark. It always has been and I think always will be in the NHL. That’s the thing you’re kind of gunning for.
“You never think you’re going to score 60, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d get to 58.”
At the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa, the idea of Stamkos scoring 60 started making the rounds — but at that time he was sitting at 32 goals with 33 games left.
Of course, all he’s done since then is score 27 times, thanks in part to an increase in ice time (he had more than 25 minutes of ice time during a 3-2 loss in Toronto on Thursday night.) Tonight, he’ll have the added benefit of playing at the MTS Center, where he’s scored twice already this season.
Stamkos admitted that while he’s not focused on scoring No. 60, it’s hard not to acknowledge the chase.
“I get asked about it every day, so it’s tough not to [think about it],” said Stamkos. “It’s something that you never know if you’re going to get that close again in your career, so you might as well try to at least go for it. It’s not something I’m pressing.
“I was thinking more about getting to 50 when I was around 47, 48 goals, to be honest. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”