The Tampa Bay Lightning ceased play on the night of December 23rd (a feat or strength in their 4-3 win over the Penguins) and will resume their season this evening against the Carolina Hurricanes... Yet the thought of playing the Penguins lingers a bit today; consider it reverse trap-game action - a big game in the past that could have an effect on a rested team today.
While the focus should be on the team gearing up and getting underway against a (in the standings) lesser opponent, it's instead on the fact the last opponent - the team that Tampa Bay has faced twice in 8 days (and will face again on January 4th) may or may not have left their mark.
Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss joined Sidney Crosby, Olli Maatta, Christian Ehrhoff and others sidelined by the illness for the Penguins. How many of those guys had played during the December 15th contest between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay? How many have been tested since that game for the virus?
The Lightning have had two players fall sick during their recent road trip - but to a stomach ailment, not the mumps.
Ad Drouin to that list:
Cooper said there's no indication Drouin has the mumps. More than likely has the same stomach virus that took down Gudas and Johnson.— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) December 27, 2014
Still, it's going to be a lingering concern for Lightning fans (and I would think the training and equipment staff) going forward - the fear of players contracting the mumps and it spreading among the team and the staff.
Ben Bishop is going to be back in net tonight for Tampa Bay. He disappeared from the December 15th Bolts/Pens game in Pittsburgh due to injury sustained during the 1st period. Evgeni Nabokov and first-year North American Andrei Vasilevskiy split starting time during the past four games; the club went 2-1-1 during that stretch (or 2-2-1 if we include the game where Bishop was injured). Bish's return is re-assuring, and what fans saw in Vasya's abilities is inspiring... You'll have to wait for that tandem a while longer; Bishop is the man in Tampa and Vasilevskiy needs playing time to hone his game - he will see plenty of that in Syracuse with the Crunch.
On the blue line, the Bolts are lacking one Mister Jason Garrison from the lineup. He also missed Tuesday's game against the Penguins... he hopes to return for Monday's game versus the Maple Leafs. This has made the defensive pairings look a little odd with the tandems of:
Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Matt Carle - Anton Stralman
Mark Barberio - Radko Gudas
And why break up the effective tandem of Hedman and Stralman? That's because of coach Jon Cooper being beholden to a working left-right shot tandem. It's why you haven't seen Mark Barberio substitute for anyone but former Bolt Eric Brewer... not unless injuries dictate the need for an immediate warm-body in the defense. It's limited Barberio to only 13 games this season (1 point, 1 assist, and a minus-2). He's also spent time with Hedman in the top pairing, in place of Sustr, but he's long-time played with Radko Gudas in defensive pairings.
Carolina is 2-7-1 in their last 10 game. Their pre-break contest was a win against the New Jersey Devils. While the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jacketsx have resurrected their seasons, the Canes remain next to the floor of the general NHL standings. Justin Faulk leads the team in scoring with 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists) while Jiri Tlustly leads the team in goal scoring with 10 tallies.
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