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Pressure for the Cup; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Chicago Blackhawks game 5 preview

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where:  Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 8 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: NBC (local) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Second City hockeyThe Committed Indian

Monday's game in Chicago will be a verge/brink game.  The Stanley Cup will be at United Center and the potential that a champion could be crowned on that night is out there. That's how close we are now.

To get there, however, you have to play game 5. The pressure is here for the Lightning and Blackhawks to do what they can to take control of the series tonight. Can that even be accomplished for real? All games have been decided by 1 goal (2-1, 4-3, 3-2, and 2-1) with late goals deciding most games (no overtime).

There's self-pressure to do for both franchises going into this one: Tampa Bay has the home-ice advantage to utilize, or try to at least. The Hawks, on the other hand, are in the same self-pressure point the Lightning were in for game 4: win this one and you set yourself up to play for the Cup at home during the next game.  You didn't hear that kind of talk coming from Lightning players directly before game 4 (if it happened, I didn't see the remarks) but you could see it coming from fans; they were more than well aware how close the team is to that glorious feat.

The players may not be saying it, but they sure as hell are aware of it.

It was an optional skate this morning for the Lightning. Yes, goalie Ben Bishop participated (and Kristers Gudlevskis did not) but the question who starts is still very much in play. That goes for the usual suspects in on the Lightning roster as well: 12 forwards tonight or 11? Will we see Jonathan Drouin, Vladislav Namestnikov, or Nikita Nesterov in the lineup? Or perhaps we'll see Jonathan Marchessault and / or Mark Barberio?  We don't know and won't know until game time.

What we do know is that the NHL season has, at most, three games left to play... And Lord Stanley's Cup will be in the building on Monday... But we have to get there first, and who will be on the verge of a title will be determined by the outcome tonight.

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