The Tampa Bay Lightning will square off with the Ottawa Senators for the first time in the Great White North this year, as a 4-game road swing through the colder part of the continent continues for the Bolts following the 3-2 regulation loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
Ben Bishop will get the start in net for the Lightning, per Damian Cristodero, and it will mark Bishop's first opportunity to play against the Senators team that swapped him to the Bolts for forward Cory Conacher in Ottawa, a move that has no doubt gone in Tampa Bay's favor to date. While records and statistics against specific opponents are mostly meaningless due to small sample sizes, Bishop will be looking to improve on his career 3-0-0 record and .942 save percentage against his former team.
With two wins in a row this season against the Sens, the Lightning could secure the season series tonight, but they'll need to find a way to do a few things better than a week ago to do so. Staying out of the penalty box will have to be priority number one, because while the penalty kill looked better against the Leafs on Tuesday, it's still giving up a ton of shots (9th worst in the league at 4v5) and killing off just 79.8% of opposing power plays (22nd in the NHL, also 9th worst). In the meeting a week ago, the Lightning were the better team at 5v5, with nearly all of Ottawa's offense coming on their power play and off Erik Karlsson's stick.
Finding a forward line that can eliminate time and space for Karlsson to create off the rush will be key, because when Karlsson is off the ice, the Sens are a different team, one that's much easier to stop defensively. However, Jason Spezza has improved of late with Mika Zibanejad on his wing, and the Sens' top line of Kyle Turris between Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur has been dynamite all season long, so the Sens have weapons to wreak havoc should the Lightning decide not to play tight defensively or again lead a parade to the penalty box allowing Ottawa's power play to go to work against a still struggling kill.
Following a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets for the Sens, who also played Tuesday, they are locked up tight in the race for a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The difference between 7th in the East (Philadelphia Flyers) and 13th (New Jersey Devils) is three points, so the Sens will again be hungry to try and gain some ground and elevate themselves into playoff position.
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