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Level up; Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils preview

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Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports


Where:  Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: In Lou We Trust

It seems like it was an age ago, yet it was just last week when Jonathan Drouin was a healthy scratch for the Bolts contest against the Washington Capitals. It was written in the game preview about the diligence, the process, the learning, and how Drouin had descended not as a penalty but as part of being made into a more complete player.

You can look at it like Drouin was handcuffed by management. Well, he's unchained now or at least for the moment. He's ascended back to the top of the lineup, playing on the wing of Steven Stamkos. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune has a great piece highlighting the turnover. I key in on a quote from head coach Jon Cooper here:

"What I do like is he is getting ‘dirtier' now. He's going in and getting pucks, he's not waiting for other people to get them for him," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "He's much more involved than he was before, and with that comes more playing time.

"He has had to sit back and learn a little bit, just as everybody else has to do, but he is learning and trying and working; doing all the things you want in a player, so he is slowly getting rewarded for it."

Nixing the floating, coach? Playing a more complete game? That'll do wonders for a guy, let alone one of Drouin's skill set and at such a young age.

His involvement in bigger minutes and higher on the depth chart may be a necessity tonight, but not exactly in the way you'd think. While Drouin has played the majority of his minutes on the wing this season, remember that he's spent ample time (last season with the Halifax Mooseheads) playing center... It just so happens that a center on the Lightning roster is battling an ailment right now: Tyler Johnson is good at the vomit at current. He's got the same stomach ailment that sidelined defenseman Radko Gudas earlier this week. Will it keep Johnson out of the lineup tonight? We won't know until game time as the morning skate is completely optional and lineup notes won't be hammered down until then.

One lineup note that we do know of is goalie Ben Bishop's status: he's doubtful to play either tonight's game in Newark or tomorrow's match with the New York Islanders in Uniondale. Which goalie goes tonight against the Devils? I can't tell you right now... Cases could be made for either Evgeni Nabokov or Andrei Vasilevskiy starting in net tonight or tomorrow.  One thing's for sure - Bishop isn't starting or playing until next week.

If percentages matter, the New Jersey Devils will be trying to draw penalties and hoping their power play can get their offense going. The Devils power play is at 21.9% efficiency, which is 7/10th of a point better than the Lightning (21.2%). They're 8 and 9th in the NHL in the man-advantage rankings.

The thing is that you have to not only get the power play but get by the opposing penalty kill. The Lightning's penalty kill unit is ranked 15th in the league, the middle of the pack, with an 80.7 kill rate.  On the other hand, New Jersey should be kissing butt instead of drawing penalties; they're ranked 26th on penalty kill efficiency with a 76.7% effectiveness.

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