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First-half finale; Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators preview

Visiting the great white north for a pair of games, the Lightning end the first half of the season.

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Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Where:  Canadian Tire Center, Ottawa, Ontario
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Silver Seven Senators, The 6th Sens

Game #41 of the season, we're at the halfway mark of the NHL season in general (give or take a game depending on many an NHL club) about 7 games before the mid-winter classic: the NHL All-Star game.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it's been a solid first-half of the season: 52 points out of a possible 80 (not counting tonight's contest with the Ottawa Senators), a forward not named Martin St. Louis or Steven Stamkos on a point-per-game pace (Tyler Johnson, who has 41 points before tonight). While the Lightning are in an offensive slump of sorts at the moment, "of sorts" seems like a very apt description as they're still scoring, it's just not Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Filppula or rookie Jonathan Drouin lighting the lamp.

Ben Bishop has taken the bulk of the starts for the Lightning (28) and been dependable for the most part. We've seen what's to come in the organization with Andrei Vasilevskiy's recent starts for the Lightning.

Largely we're seeing the strength of depth. Vasya's strong play (4 starts, 3-1-0, .937 save percentage, 1.78 GAA); contributions from the bottom-6 and the blue line offensively, the ready-and-able recalls from the Syracuse Crunch... It shows the Lightning can play and compete during the marathon of the season.

Speaking of depth, Nikita Nesterov will play in his second NHL game of his career/of the season this evening and Mark Barberio will be scratched from the lineup... The fact Nesterov is still with Tampa Bay should tell you what you need to know - Radko Gudas remains out of the lineup.  It gets a little worse than that:

Line juggling has once again commenced for the Bolts, with Alex Killorn and Brett Connolly being centered by Steven Stamkos, while Valtteri Filppula centers Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan, Jonathan Drouin has been demoted to the 4th line and the one line that clicks consistently remains untouched: the TKO Trio of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat.

The Ottawa Senators are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and are (obviously) making an ascent in the Atlantic Division.  They're 4 points behind the Bruins and Panthers (who are tied at 43 points) but they're within striking distance. Though going to overtime last night against the B's did not help their cause.  Yes, the Bolts are catching the Senators on the flip side of back-to-back games, that works in their favor as long as they come to play and not to go through the motions. Ottawa will start Robin Lehner in net tonight; he's 6-5-2 on the season and has a .909 save percentage and 2.93 GAA.  Remember, it was Lehner's presence in the Senators system that made Ben Bishop expendable for Ottawa. Don't let those mixed stats fool you, though, the Senators have only given up 1 more goal than they've scored this season (100/101).

It'll be Ben Bishop in the crease for the Lightning, who is looking to bounce back after that forgettable oddity-filled performance at CONSOL Energy Center on Friday night.

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