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A daunting task and no Tyler Johnson; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Washington Capitals preview

#9 is out for the next few games(?) and the leadership challenge remains with Steven Stamkos.

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Where:
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida | When: 7 PM EST
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: Sun Sports FS Florida Sun | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Japer's Rink, Russian Machine Never Breaks, Stars and Sticks

In Thursday's game preview, I got on the case of #91 after his shenanigans from Wednesday that put his contract situation at the forefront of the Lightning season storyline:

we're going to find out just what the deal is by way of the results of the next few games if Stamkos' Twitter shenanigans has been talked about in the locker room. A motivated club is convinced that Stamkos' act was indeed the trolling it's been labeled as by some. An out-of-focus or edgy team is distracted by the charade. An unmotivated team in an integral divisional battle game tells us the worst. A status-quo Lightning, the same middling effort by the club, means there's been nothing set straight with a club that's been playing beneath what it's capable of for too much of the season that's nearing its halfway point.

It's your move, captain.

The 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators doesn't change things, not on its own. It takes more than one game to show a message has been sent or the discussion hasn't further muddied the mire. It was a nice performance overall, but it shouldn't be said that the course has been corrected or the waters calmed in Hockey Bay, USA.

Tonight's another challenge game for the Bolts and a distracted roster isn't going to pass muster against the Washington Capitals. We've already seen the Lightning struggle against the Capitals - losing 4-2 nearly two weeks ago at Verizon Center. Having Stammergeddon 2.0 further play out (another "slip", another dominant narrative from the media) just ain't gonna propel the club to meet the challenge of the Caps right now, who are a single point behind the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference standings and have 3 games in-hand on Les Habitants de Montreal as well. Alex Ovechkin leads the Caps in goal-scoring with 14 in 26 games played, while Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the team overall in scoring with 27 points (8 goals, 19 assists).

Any plans to counter the Capitals potent brew tonight will have to be without the services of the Triplets line as center Tyler Johnson is out of the lineup tonight and his timeline for return is sketchy. Coach Jon Cooper told reporters that Johnson didn't come back too soon from his last injury, it's a new one and he's dealing with that more often this season than ever before.

With Erik Condra unavailable and Cedric Paquette still dealing with his issues on top of the loss of Johnson, the Bolts plan to recall Mike Blunden from the Syracuse Crunch.

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