Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: The Cannon, The Dark Blue Jacket
Before the season started, despite the drama invoked by the Ryan Johansen contract dispute, expectations were high for the Columbus Blue Jackets club. The organization is generally headed in the right direction after years of mediocrity. There's promise. It's arguable that Union Army HC is the franchise that has benefitted the most from NHL realignment, as they have more potential natural rivals in the Eastern Conference than they did in the Western Conference (that's an discussion to have at another time).
Columbus, it looked like, was poised to be the Metro Divisions version of the Lightning - an afterthought that could turn heads... And it's done that in the first month of the season, but it's for the wrong reasons. After last night's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus sites in 29th place in the NHL after 13 games played. They stand a solitary point in front of the Buffalo Sabres in the standings.
You want to know why? Injuries hobbling the club's forward progress. In a way, it's like what Lightning fans envisioned last season after Steven Stamkos went down in Boston - the wheels falling off and everything going to crap (of course that didn't happen). In the case of Union Army, it isn't a single player going down but multiple players going to injured reserve. Artem Ansimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Murray and others at forward and on the blue line are shelved. Sergei Bobrosvsky, #1 netminder for Columbus, is there with them while Jack Johnson is sitting out with a suspension for the moment.
That being said, injuries won't last. This club will heal up in time and compete again. And while this season is too early to be written off as a lost-cause for Union Army, it intimidates me to think of this club winning the draft lottery. This isn't a tank job by an impotent franchise; this is a series of unfortunate events that put a competitive team near the bottom at the moment.
It's also a potential trap for Tampa Bay.
The Lightning swept their homestand and are tied for 3rd overall in the NHL standings (while at the top of the Atlantic Division). They're facing a Columbus team that played last night while their own eyes might be wandering to Sunday's divisional match at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Red Wings are 5-2-3 in their past 10 games and a point being the Lightning in the Atlantic- Hold it! See what I mean? Columbus may have played last night, and the Bolts might have a big game tomorrow, but that doesn't mean tonight doesn't have to be played (preferably with the team seriously competing instead of just going through the motions).
It's not just circumstances that make this a trap game, but also the fact the Lightning have a ten dance to travel to Columbus and play a listless game; the Bolts have only played 8 games in Ohio and have lost 5 of them while playing to a tie once (the stat site I am using does not differentiate overtime or shootout losses from loses, while it does separate home form away games). This stresses the fact this is a more dangerous game than it should be; if the team has the wrong mentality, another humiliation game could happen like it did in Edmonton almost three weeks ago.
Ryan Johansen leads the Blue Jackets in scoring with 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) with Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell trailing him with 13 and 12 points respectively. Also, despite the injuries straddling the club, they stand at 16th in the league on the power play with a 18.9% efficiency while also standing at 18th in the league on the penalty kill with a 79.6% kill-rate.
Tyler Johnson seems to have assumed a role comparable to what Marty St. Louis used to do with the
They'll be charged with stopping and overcoming the Bolts formidable play on special teams; the Lightning are 4th overall in the NHL on the power play with a 24.4% efficiency. The penalty kill unit is formidable on its own, though not as potent - the 83.8% kill-rate is 11th in the NHL, just a tenth of a point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Alex Killorn, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury, is said to be getting closer to a return but you shouldn't expect him back tonight against Columbus. Also, top defenseman Anton Stralman, who left the bench during game play Thursday due to injury, is expected to be in the lineup tonight for the Lightning.
Other Game Coverage:
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Full coverage on SB Nation
- Live stream of Tampa Bay Lightning coverage on Twitter