After leaving Game 1 with an upper-body injury, forward Ondrej Palat is not expected to dress out for tonight's game. He is currently listed as a game-time decision, but did not participate in the team's optional morning skate on Friday.
Palat played in 81 out of 82 games this season, only being scratched from last Sunday's 1-0 shootout win against the Capitals. What does the 23 year old rookie's absence from the ice tonight mean for the Lightning? It offers the chance for other heroes to shine. After all, this is the playoffs and anything can happen.
When Steven Stamkos went down injured last November, many believed the Lightning's chance of making the playoffs dropped significantly. In the same day while the team was still atop the Eastern Conference standings, an NHL.com fan poll revealed over half (51%) of voters believed the Lightning would no longer qualify for the playoffs anymore due to Stamkos' absence. Now five months later, the Lightning never looked back and is continuing to prove why it deserved to be here all along.
Although Palat plays an important part for the team through his aggressive defense and penalty kill, the Lightning still has plenty of depth and players it can rely on. Just as Palat helped fill the void while Stamkos was injured, there are many Bolts capable of accomplishing what needs to be done tonight in order to match Montreal back in the series. How they rise to the occasion, however, is up to them.
As the Lightning's talented offense continues to prove to be successful, one of the key focal points of tonight's game, and the rest of the series, will be playing smart defense. The Lightning has the ability to overcome Carey Price, which it has done several times this season, but protecting Anders Lindback, as he prepares to make his third career playoff start tonight, will be just as important.
When addressing the media at the Tampa Bay Times Forum yesterday about Game 2, coach Jon Cooper said, "Adversity... that word went out the door quite some time ago. Don't even use it anymore, we just think it's the norm. It's like, 'Welcome to Tuesday.'"
While having one of its most contributing players indefinitely injured is certainly nothing new for the Lightning, it serves as another challenge for this team that has been (and still is) able to overcome many obstacles. Tonight the Lightning will continue to be put to the test.