Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 5 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Jewels from the Crown, The Royal Half, Mayor's Manor
At this point in the season, the Lightning organization's depth is being tested pretty well. In Tampa, it's on defense where pain is straining the organization - Radko Gudas is out for at least 4 months, Matt Carle is out for a few more weeks after abdominal surgery last month, and now Jason Garrison is down and will be out this weekend in Tampa Bay's back-to-back series with the LA Basin based teams.
The pain is at forward when you look north to our partners in Syracuse, the Crunch has lost Mike Blunden to injury - he's done for the season. Jonathan Marchessault is also battling hurt. I'm honestly not versed in how thoroughly Syracuse is banged up, but the team's status does in fact matter to the Lightning organization (competitively as well as a source of depth) and that's part of why Carter Ashton and David Broll were acquired last night from Toronto - for depth.
This doesn't improve the situation on defense for the organization though; the blue line is depleted in Tampa and it's resulted in a raid of the Crunch's depth. Nikita Nesterov, who's been praised for his play since his recall from the Crunch a few weeks back, will be in the lineup tonight as well as Luke Witkowski. Those guys were centerpieces for the Crunch defense.
Back-to-back games against the likes of the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks could add to the test of depth - expect hard and -physical contests. Heck, the month and its continued games against the Western Conference could easily add to the hurt - none of these should be easy games.
The Kings are in a place that you wouldn't have expected at the start of the season - five points outside the wild card race in the Western Conference at the moment. While the Kings could very well thank Tampa Bay for beating Dallas on Thursday and keeping the wild card race tight, they haven't done themselves any favors. Los Angeles has lost their last three games, including Thursday in Sunrise against the Panthers.
Los Angeles is playing for their post-season life while the Lightning are fighting for the Atlantic Division lead; they remain atop the division with the Red Wings 2 points behind in second place and Montreal Canadiens 4 points behind. Both clubs have several games in-hand on the Lightning and could make up the point margin quite easily.
Anze Kopitar leads the Kings in points with 38 (11 goals, 27 assists) while Marian Gaborik leads the club in goals-scored with 16 on the season.
Jonathan Quick's numbers are lower than you would expect from LA's #1 netminder; .909 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average, but make no mistake that when Quick is on, he's lights out. The Bolts have to be willing to take shots on net instead of passing their way to opportunity, a hindrance that's dogged the franchise for years upon years with one coach or another.
Ben Bishop gets the nod for the Lightning between the pipes tonight, which suggests Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the starting nod against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow. Bishop has a .914 save percentage, a 2.31 GAA and 26 wins to his name (and 55 of the Lightning's 71 points coming with him in net).
Other Game Coverage:
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Full coverage on SB Nation
- Live stream of Tampa Bay Lightning coverage on Twitter